THE UNIVERSITY OF NORTH CAROLINA.
James Sprunt Historical Monograph
William Richardson Davie: A Memoir
J. G. de Roulhac Hamilton, Ph.D.
Followed by His Letters with Notes
Kemp P. Battle, LL.D.
THE UNIVERSITY OF NORTH CAROLINA.
James Sprunt Historical Monograph
William Richardson Davie: A Memoir
J. G. de Roulhac Hamilton, Ph.D.
Followed by His Letters with Notes
Kemp P. Battle, LL.D.
PUBLISHED BY THE UNIVERSITY
THE UNIVERSITY PRESS
In view of Davie's distinguished, public services and more
particularly, because of his connection with the University of
North Carolina, the following- of his letters seem worthy of
publication. So few of his letters have been preserved that
those w T hich remain have an additional value and interest to
students of the character, life, and career of "The Father of
the University", who is also one of the most distinguished
figures in North Carolina history. The letters are annotated
carefully and freely wherever they are not self-explanatory.
As an introduction to the letters, there is a sketch of Gen-
eral Davie's life. With Dr. Hubbard's volume in the Sparks
Biographies, and Hon. Walter Clark's address at Guilford
Battle Ground already in existence and covering the field so
ably, the author of this sketch felt some hesitation in under-
taking to write another, but as some new facts in regard to
Davie had come to light in his investigations, it was thought
best that it should be done. He wishes, however, to acknowl-
edge his great indebtedness to both of these writers above
mentioned. So constantly have they been used in preparing
this sketch that it was impossible to refer to them in the
notes. He also wishes to express his grateful acknowledge-
ments to his colleague, Dr. Kemp P. Battle, for much infor-
mation in regard to' Davie and for many helpful suggestions
as to the sketch.
WILLIAM RICHARDSON DAVIE.
As in the case of many others of the Revolutionary charac-
ters of North Carolina, we lack many facts that would be of
interest and value in reg-ard to the life and ancestry of Gen-
eral Davie. At his death he left more of the material from
which history is written than most Southern men, but nearly
all of this disappeared in the wholesale robbery and destruc-
tion that accompanied Sherman's march throug-h South Car-
olina. Thus many documents that would throw much lig-ht
on his early life and that would give a clear idea of his char-
acter, are missing - .
He was the son of Archibald Davie and was born at Egre-
mont, Cumberland county, England, on June 20th, 1756. J
His mother, whose maiden name was Richardson, named him
for her brother, the Rev. William Richardson, at that time a
Presbyterian clerg-yman in South Carolina.
In 1763 the Treaty of Paris put an end to the Seven Years'
War, or,' as it was known in America, the French and Indian
War. Mr. Davie then visited America, and among- other
places went to the Waxhaw settlement on the Catawba river,
where Mr. Richardson was living-. There he left the son
under the uncle's care. The latter had no children and,
becoming very fond of his nephew, he adopted him as his son
and heir. From this time on, nothing- is known of the boy's
relations with his father or the rest of his immediate family.
The elder Davie was in South Carolina during- the Revolution, 2
however, and it is probable that he and his son were in touch
with each other.
1 Some authorities give the date as 1759.
2 State Records XIV., p. 760.
William Richardson Davie. 5
Davie's early education was received from his uncle, but he
was later sent to Queen's College, an academy in Charlotte.
About 1772 he entered Nassau Hall at Princeton. Dr. John
Witherspoon was at this time president of the college and
was famous for his patriotic ideas. A native of Scotland, he
was fond of saying- that he had become an American the
moment he landed. He had great influence with his students
and they imbibed from him much loyalty to the cause of their
country which they would scarcely have received from the
surrounding- population. Nor was his influence confined to
his students, for he was an influential member of the New
Jersey constitutional convention and of the Provincial Con-
gress. He was later a member of the Continental Congress
and sig-ned the Declaration of Independence. In this body he
was prominent and his associates found him "as profound a
civilian as he was before known as a philosopher and divine."
He always wore clerical dress, and when an allusion was made
to it, said that he was "God's minister in a sacred and in a
The first service that Davie rendered to the patriot cause
and his first military service was before his graduation in
the summer of 1876, when, with the full approval of Dr.
Witherspoon, a party of students, of .whom he was one, vol-
unteered for service in New York and were in the army for
several months. In the autumn, upon his return to Prince-
ton, he took his examinations and was granted the degree of
Master of Arts with first honor.
Before he could reach South Carolina, his adopted father
died and Davie was thus left practically alone in the world.
He had already settled upon the law as his profession and
soon commenced the study of it in Salisbury. He was natur-
ally suited to the profession both in mental equipment and in
personality, and soon became much absorbed in his studies.
But they were not to continue very long- at this time, for in
the early winter of 1777, Charleston was threatened by the
British and he joined a detachment raised in North Carolina
6 James Sprunt Historical Monograph.
and put under the command of General Allen Jones. The
threatened attack being- abandoned, the force only reached
Camden and, after about three months of service, returned
home. Davie then resumed his interrupted studies. But in
the autumn of 1878, when it was discovered that the British
were planning- a Southern campaign, the Congress called
upon North Carolina to furnish 2,000 additional troops, and
early in 1779 a troop of cavalry was raised about Salisbury-.
William Barnett, who raised the troop 1 was made its captain
and Davie became one of the lieutenants. He was commis-
sioned by Governor Caswell, April 5th, 1779, and immediately
put in command of a detachment of 200 men and sent to
quell a threatened uprising- of the Tories probably in what is
now Burke county. Before his arrival, however, it had been
suppressed. Barnett's troop, upon joining the Southern army
under the command of General Lincoln, was attached to
Pulaski's Legion, and Barnett resigning soon after, Davie
succeeded him as captain and in a short time received his
His first active service was in the battle of Stono, near
Charleston, on June 20th, 1779. Davie was seriously wounded
and dismounted but he was saved from certain capture and
possible death by an unknown soldier who, at the risk of his
own life, carried him off the field. For some time Davie was
in a hospital in Charleston and his wound refusing to heal
he found that military service would be an impossibility for
a considerable period. Thereupon he , returned to his legal
study in Salisbury.
In September he received his license to practice before the
county courts, it being given him, it is said, at the request of
Nash who at once sent him to attend the courts on Holston
River, then in the western part of the State, in order to find
out the sentiment of the people. In the following spring he
was admitted to practice in the Superior courts.
1 Davie is said to have suggested to Barnett that he should raise the
troop and to have done most of the necessary work himself.
William Richardson Davie. 7
But Davie was too full of enthusiasm and patriotism to be
content with the business of civil courts when the cause of
his country was being- tried in the supreme test of arms, and
sometime in the spring of 1780 he received authority to raise
a troop of cavalry and two companies of mounted infantry.
To equip these Major Davie sold his inheritance from his
uncle and used the proceeds.
During- the summer he and his men took a notable part in
the operations on the South Carolina line. After several
skirmishes in which he showed great daring- and military
skill, he took part in the eng-ag-ement at Hanging- Rock and
after carrying his prisoners to Charlotte, turned South again,
passed Gates retreating from Camdem, and in spite of the
latter's wishes, went to the scene of the battle 1 and there
saved a great quantity of stores. About this time he was
appointed a colonel by Governor Nash and given authority
to raise a regiment. While this was being done, Davie
moved about the British army with a small force of horse and
was successful in several minor engagements. His services
were of great value, for while there was nothing decisive in
the engagements, he succeeded in keeping the British in a
constant state of unrest and uneasiness, and thus did much
to destroy the morale of the enemy's force. For a time his
was the only organized and armed body in the South in active
opposition to the British. On September 26th, saying that
he would give the British a taste of what Hornet's Nest
would give them, he held the whole army of Cornwallis in
check at Charlotte for several hours, and though compelled
in the end to withdraw, did so in good order. The next day
at Salisbury his force was increased to over three hundred
men and for the next two weeks he occupied himself in cut-
ting off supplies from - Cornwallis, repressing Tories and
inciting the patriots to increased efforts. During all this
l General Gates wished Davie to turn back with him, but Davie told
him that he and his men were perfectly acquainted with Tarleton and
not afraid of him at all.
8 James Sprunt Historical Monograph.
time he showed his great qualities as a soldier and a com-
mander. Bold and dashing-, the ideal cavalry officer, he was
ready on an instant to seize any advantage that might pre-
sent itself and has been fittingly called the Hotspur of the
Southern army. But with all his dash and impetuosity, he
had great discretion and foresight, qualities for the lack of
which many have failed who otherwise would have been
great cavalry leaders.
The American success at King's Mountain caused Corn-
wallis to retreat into South Carolina and Davie followed close
behind. But in November the term of service for which his
men were enlisted, expired, and they returned home leaving
Davie without a command. He was not willing- to be idle if
he could be of any service and, at General Smallwood's sug-
gestion, considered raising a legion. To obtain the neces-
sary authority he appealed to the Board of War at Halifax.
This extraordinary body had been created in 1870 with pow-
ers that were in excess of those granted by the State consti-
tution to the governor and commander-in-chief. The Board was
composed of Alexander Martin, John Penn, and Oroondates
Davis. Between them and Governor Nash there was open
disagreement and this caused the latter to decline to stand
for reelection. His successor, Thomas Burke, when he came
into office, declared the powers granted the Board by the
General Assembly unconstitutional and reduced its members
to the authority of the governor by the threat of resignation.
In the strained relations existing between Governor Nash
and the Board, Davie's application was not considered and he
abandoned his plan. His opinion of the Board of War has
come down to us: "Nothing could be more ridiculous than
the manner in which it was filled. Martin, being a warrior
of great fame, 1 was placed at the head. Penn, who was
only fit to amuse children, and Davis, who knew nothing but
a game of whist, composed the rest of the Board."
l Davie like the other military men of the time made fun of Governor
Martin at every opportunity for his alleged cowardice in battle.
William Richardson Davie, 9
But so valuable a servant was not long to be absent from
important service. When General Nathaniel Greene suc-
ceeded Gates in the command of the Southern army, he met
Davie and offered him the office of commissary from which
Colonel Thomas Polk had just resigned, saying- it was impos-
sible to feed the army. It was not a position which appealed
in any way to Davie whose tastes w T ere all for active service
in the field, and in addition, this position involved ceaseless
activity, forethought, and responsibility with no hope of
honor, reward, or excitement. But ambitious as he was, he
never seems to have hesitated about its acceptance, and in
January, 1872, entered upon the duties of the office. General
Greene soon sent him to appeal to the legislature of North
Carolina for men and means, and by that body he was made,
first, superintendent of the Salisbury district, and later, Com-
missary General of the State. The position under Greene,
difficult under the most favorable circumstances, was ren-
dered doubly so by the condition of the country and the
depreciation of currency, but Davie filled it with conspicuous
success. Nor is it too much to say that he contributed as
much, if not more, to the success of Greene's army as any
man connected with it, not excepting even that gallant and
skilful commander himself. He was with Greene for four
months and was present at Guilford Court House, Hobkirk's
Hill, the evacuation of Camden, and the siege of Ninety-Six.
It was during this siege that he was made Commissary Gen-
eral of North Carolina.
Difficult as his position with Greene had been this proved
even more so. Troops had to be equipped, supplies gathered
and sent South, though the means of transportation were lack-
ing, the people kept from discontent as much as possible,
and, at the same time, he was compelled to deal with three
governors of different types in one year. 1 At times he was
obliged to have recourse to his own personal credit to pro-
i Governors Nash, Burke, and Martin, the latter filling Burke's place
when he was captured by Fanning.
10 James Spritnt Historical Monograph.
vide the supplies which were absolutely necessary for the
army. His difficulties were increased by the tax which the
legislature of 1781 laid. It was in brief:
"Bach and every inhabitant of this State shall for every
hundred pounds value of their taxable property (money and
interest excepted) contribute and pay to the commissioner of
his respective county one peck of corn, or half a peck of
wheat, or one peck of rye or half a peck of clean rice or two
and a half pounds of good fresh pork, or one and a half
pounds of good salted pork, or four pounds of good fresh
beef." The collecting officers were authorized to distrain
double the amount in the case of a refusal or neglect to bring
the specific article to the appointed places. The next year it
was increased to one bushel^ of corn or ten pounds of pork.
Like all taxes of the kind, it was doomed to failure in spite
of strenuous efforts to collect it. Governor Johnston later
said that it was "the most oppressive and least productive
tax ever known in North Carolina." Davie was opposed to
it, but it must be remembered that through this tax and the
efforts of Davie in its collection, the State fed not onl} T its
own troops but also those of Virginia. And failure to pro-
cure supplies at this time would have probably meant the
failure of the American cause. In 1782 the General Assmbly
abolished the offices of commissary and quartermaster. Gov-
ernor Martin wrote Davie that he regretted that he found it
his duty to dismiss them. Davie replied, "I am sorry your
Excellency should feel a pang on that subject, as they have
already dismissed themselves. No man would desire to con-
tinue in a service where they reap no recompense but
reproach for their most active and zealous exertions." Davie
continued in his office until the close of the war and then
demanded a strict auditing of his accounts which, in spite of
the great volume of business of the office, the difficulties in
the way of business methods, and .Davie's lack of prepara-
tion for such work, proved perfectly satisfactory.
Colonel Davie now resumed the practice of law and in 1783
William Richardson Davie. 11
went on his first circuit. About the same time he married
Miss Sarah Jones, a daughter of General Allen Jones. He
also fixed upon Halifax as his place of residence. This town
was, at that time, one of the most important in the State a.nd
was more entitled to be considered the capital than any
other, for the General Assembly met there frequently* and it
was the scene of nearly all executive business. Davie's prac-
tice soon became immense. He was a brilliant and forceful
speaker and combined with this a capacity for hard "work in
preparing- a case that made him a most effective and power-
ful advocate. Judge Murphey, who knew him and had
heard him, said, "Davie took Lord Bolingbroke for his
model, and applied himself with so much diligence to the
study of his master that literary men could easily recognize
his lofty and flowing style. He was a tall elegant man in
person, graceful and condescending in his manners. His
voice was mellow and adapted to the expression of ever}' pas-
sion. His style was magnificent and flowing. He had a
greatness of manner in public speaking which suited his
style and gave his speeches an imposing effect. He was a
laborious student and arranged his discourses with care, and,
when the subject suited his genius, poured fourth a torrent
of eloquence that astonished and delighted his audience.
They looked upon him with delight, listened to his long, har-
monious periods, caught his emotions; and indulged that
ecstacy of feeling which fine speaking and powerful elo-
quence can alone produce. He is certainly to be ranked
among the first orators whom the American nation has pro-
Davie by no means confined his practice to his own imme-
tnediate section of the State. He was already well known in
the West from his former residence in Salisbury and his later
military service in that portion of the State, and to his mili-
tary reputation he speedily added even a greater one in the
law\ His successful management of several important cases
made his services in demand throughout the State and he
12 James Sftrunt Historical Monograph.
"practiced in all of the seven judicial districts 1 except that of
Morganton which was the most western of them and also the
largest though most sparsely settled. In his practice Davie
did not confine himself to either branch of law. In every
civil case of importance he appeared, and it is said, probably
with truth, that during- the whole period he was at the bar,
some fifteen years, not a capital case was tried in North Car-
olina in which he did not appear for the defence. His con-
temporaries, too, were far from being- mediocre, for among
them may be mentioned the names of James Iredell and
Alfred Moore, both destined for the Supreme Bench of
the United States, Francis Xavier Martin, later to be chief
justice of Louisiana, Judge John Haywood, later of Tennes-
see, and for a short time, William Hooper and Archibald
MacLaine. Of these the ablest and consequently Davie's
chief rivals were Moore and Haywood. Judge Murphey says
that the public could not reach any conclusion as to which
was the abler — Davie or Moore.
Among the notable cases in which Davie appeared was
that of Colonel Bryan, a Tory, who was tried for treason at
Salisbury in 1782. Davie assisted in his defense at the risk
of his own popularity, for it was no light thing to side with
a Tory when public opinion was running so high as it was in
North Carolina at that time. Bryan was convicted and sen-
tenced to be hung but was later pardoned. It is also worthy
of note that, in general, Davie was opposed to harsh meas-
ures against the Tories, but his opinions and advice were
He also appeared in two other cases of such importance
that they may be mentioned here. In the case of Hamilton
vs. Eaton it was decided that the treaty of peace between the
United States and Great Britain repealed the North Carolina
confiscation act, and in Bayard vs. Singleton it was held that
the courts had the authority and at the same time the obli-
1 The districts were as follows: Halifax, New Bern, Wilmington, Eden-
ton, Hillsboro, Salisbury, and Morganton.
William Richardson Davie. 13
g-ation to declare acts of the legislature unconstitutional. 1
For some years Davie seems to have taken, no part in poli-
tics, but in 1786 and again in 1787, he represented the borough
of Halifax in the House of Commons. His reputation as a
soldier and as a lawer gave him great prominence from the
first and he soon justified his reputation by the ability he
displayed. In this first session he took a leading part in the
debate on the charges brought against the three judges of
the State, Williams, Spencer and Ashe.
Much dissatisfaction had been caused in the State by the
conduct and decisions of the judges and many charges were
brought against them. It was stated that they were con-
stantly late at court and that Judges Ashe and Williams
even failed altogether to attend certain courts. Disputes, too,
between Judge Spencer and Judge Williams, and in fact,
between all three, were said to have so delayed the business of
the courts as to convince those having an interest in cases
before them, that no judgment would ever be rendered. In
regard to their official actions the chief things brought
against them were in relation to the cases of Peter Mallet
and of Francis Brice and Daniel McNeill, though there were
many others. In 1783 Mallett had been accused of treason,'
but had exhibited a pardon from the governor, and the jury
had decided that his rights as a citizen were thereby
restored. But in 1784 the court at Hillsboro questioned his
right to sue and stayed two suits that he had brought until
they could decide the matter and then delayed nearby a year
in coming to any conclusion. McNeil and Brice were
indicted for returning to the State after leaving it to avoid
punishment for treasonable acts. The court without a trial
took action against them which practically amounted to a sen-
tence of banishment. 2 After the charges had been made, the
matter was referred to a committee on which, among others,
i These acts are to be found in 1 N. C. Reports, pp. 84 and 42.
2 The details of this matter may be found in the State Records, xvin
pp. 421-429, 477-483.
14 James Sftrunt Historical Monograph.
were Maclaine, Davie, Hooper, and Spaight. The report of
the committee was adverse to the judges but the committee
of the two houses decided that the judges had not been
guilty of any malpractice in office and this report was con-
curred in by the Commons. Davie entered a protest against
the concurrence but the s} T mpathies of the House were with
the judg-es and a resolution was passed which practically
expressed full approval of their acts.
At this same session Davie was chosen a lieutenant colonel
of the State militia, a position which he held for many years
On January 6th, 1787, Caswell, Martin, Davie, Spaight,
and Willie Jones were elected as delegates to the Philadel-
phia Convention of 1787. Of these, Caswell, Martin, and
Jones were State Rights men. The language of the act of
appointment, however, showed the influence of the conserva-
tives. Jones declined to accept and Hugh Williamson
replaced him by the governor's appointment. To fill his own
place Caswell chose William Blount. This appointment
changed the complexion of the delegation, for both William-
son and Blount were conservatives and Martin thus remained
the only radical.
The Federal Convention opened May 25th. Four of the
delegation, including Davie, were present. Blount, who was
absent, soon appeared and completed the State's representa-
tion. Owing to the comparative lack of knowledge of the
deliberations of the body, we know but little of Davie's part
in its debates and workings. But from the debates as pre-
served by James Madison we find that he favored the Presi-
dent's being elected for a long term and then
being ineligible for reelection, and when that failed,
that he insisted upon his being liable to im-
peachment for misdemeanors in office. Through his
influence North Carolina finally sided with the smaller
States and gave the deciding vote for equal representation of
the States in the Senate. He also brought his delegation to
William Richardson Davie. 15
his view that Senators should be elected by the State legis-
latures. The government was, he said, partly State and
partly national and "ought in some respects to operate on
the States, in others on the people." It is interesting- to
know that his first idea of the Senate was that it should rep-
resent property. When the debate on the basis of represen-
tation came, Davie saw that there was an effort to reduce the
representation from the South and at once gave the Conven-
tion warning- that North Carolina would never confederate
on any terms that did not rate the slaves at least three-fifths
of the federal population. He ended his speech as follows:
"If the Eastern States therefore, mean to exclude them alto-
gether, the business is at an end."
Just before the Convention adjourned, Davie went home to
attend the fall courts and consequently did not sign the Con-
stitution. Had he been there he would undoubtedly have
done so, and in North Carolina he at once threw himself into
the struggle to secure its ratification. With James Iredell
he wrote a defence of the Constitution which was scattered
over the State. The chief opponent of the new government
was his wife's uncle, Willie Jones. The Federalists, as
they were soon called, had but little hope of ratification at
the time, but they hoped by the debates in the State conven-
tion to influence the people for the future in favor of the
Constitution. It is to Iredell and Davie that the State owes
the preservation of the debates at Hillsboro in 1788, for they
prepared them for publication and bore the major part of the
expense. 'But they thereby erected a lasting memorial of
their ability and eloquence. If James Iredell was, as it is
said, the most conspicuous figure in the body, Davie was
a close second to him and of the latter much was expected by
his opponents. Porter of Halifax, alluding to him, said, "I
expect that very learned argument and powerful oratory will
be displayed on this occasion. I expect that great cannon
from Halifax will discharge great fireballs among us."
Davie and Spaight as members of the Federal Convention
16 James Sprunt Historical Monograph.
spoke frequently explaining- and defending- the' Constitution.
But their efforts were unavailing- ag-ainst the great State
Rights majority, and ratification failed by a majority of
The Federalists were not -greatly discourag-ed and con-
tinued the struggle with such success that another conven-
tion of the State w T as called by the next Genereral Assemblv
to meet in Fayetteville, though not until November, 1789.
In spite of the great change of sentiment in the State since
the last convention, we find Davie, at the time it met, seri-
ously in doubt if ratification could be secured. But the Fed-
eralist leaders had shown that, while favoring the ratifica-
tion of the Constitution, they regarded it as a compact
between the States, and this had robbed the opposition lead-
ers of their strongest argument. So the convention on
Davie's motion promptly ratified the Constitution and
Davie was not only a member of this body, but had, in
the meantime, been elected to the House of Commons. This
also met in Fayetteville in November and there, on November
12th, he introduced the bill for the establishment of the Uni-
versity of North Carolina. He was an earnest advocate of
the education of the young and had already had much to do
with the establishment of the Warrenton Academy and was
at the head of its board of trustees. Through his influence
the University bill was passed in December and he became
one of the first board of trustees. Judge Murphey was pres-
ent at the debate on the bill and says, "Though more than
thirty years have since elapsed I have the most vivid recol-
lection of the greatness of his manner and the power of his
eloquence on that occasion." Not every able man seeing the
greatness of the plan would have dared to urge it upon the
legislature and secure its passage, for by many it was
regarded as class legislation and there was great fear also of
an increase in taxes. But so much the more honor to him,
not only for his far-seeing vision, but also for his courage.
William Richardson Davie. 17
He was very active in the work which resulted in the site
being- chosen, endowment raised, professors elected, and a
proper course of study being- outlined. His plan of the
course which was employed after some years was an elective
system much like the one employed today. He was an early
benefactor to the library, realizing- the importance of that
institution. On October 12th, 1 1793, as Grand Master of
Masons, which position, by the way, he held for , seven consec-
utive years, from 1792 to 1799, he laid the cornerstone of the
"Old East" building- at Chapel Hill, and in 1798, in the same
capacity, he laid the cornerstone for the South Building-.
In many wavs, by numerous acts of service, did he show his
deep interest in the }'oung and struggling institution, and
well does he deserve the title given him by the trustees
as early as 1810, "The Father of the University/' 2 In 1811
the University conferred upon him the honorary degree of
LL.D., the first in its history.
Davie was ag-ain a member of the House of Commons in
1791. 1793, 1794, 1796, and 1798. When North Carolina ratified
the Federal Constitution, President Washing-ton offered him
a position as district judge but he declined. He wrote Iredell
that thoug-h he was anxious to escape from "our d-d Judges,''
the salary was so poor that he could not afford it.
In 1791 the legislature elected him as one- of the commis-
sioners to settle the boundary between North and South Car-
olina and he was chosen for the same purpose in 1796 and
in 1803. But the question was not settled until some years
later. He was during all this time taking- an active and
prominent part in State affairs. He proposed a digest of the
State laws and James Iredell, at his sugg-estion, was
appointed to do the work. It was throug-h his influence
largely, that the territory forming the State of Tennessee
was ceded by North Carolina to the United States. In the
1 October 12th is observed by the University as "University Day."
2 On the campus a fine old popular, one of the original forest, is known
as the "Davie Poplar."
18 James Sprunt Historical Monograph.
meantime he did not neglect his law practice which was still
great. Nor did he confine his attention exclusively to poli-
tics and the law, for he was always fond of agriculture and
devoted much of his time to his fine plantation in Halifax
county. He was instrmental in procuring a charter to drain
Lake Scuppernong and his company was granted the title to
all the land below low water mark. This plan, it is needless
to say, failed.
He still had an active interest in military affairs and was
still an officer in the militia. In 1794, when indications
pointed to a war with France, Governor Spaight appointed
him major general of the Third State Division. In 1797,
when by order of Congress, North Carolina raised a force of
7,000 men, Governor Ashe put Davie in command. The next
year the crisis had become so acute that the United States
commenced the embodiment of an army and Washington was
placed in command. President Adams appointed Davie a
brigadier general and Washington left it to him to make
appointment of officers for North Carolina. During this time
Davie prepared a manual of cavalry tactics which were
adopted by the State. These appointments show somewhat
the light in which he was regarded as a soldier both at home
In the winter of 1798 he returned to the General Assembly,
and was by that body elected governor of the State over Ben-
jamin Williams. He did not serve out his term, however,
for during the following summer, President Adams appointed
him to replace Patrick Henry, who had declined on account
of ill health, 1 as a member of the embassy to France then
under the government of the Directory. In September he
resigned the the office of Governor. Benjamin Williams was
chosen at the next election and the State was thus thrown
into the hands of the Republicans. While Davie was gov-
ernor the Virginia and Kentucky Resolutions were adopted
and copies were sent to all the States. Davie took the
l Patrick Henry died June 5th, 1799.
William Richardson Davie. 19
ground that the Union was more in danger than the rights of
the States and used his influence successfully against any
favorable action of the legislature upon them. 1
In November, with his colleagues William Vans- Murray,
the minister to the Hague, and Oliver Ellsworth, the Chief
Justice of the Supreme Court, he sailed from Newport on the
frigate United States.
After a long and roundabout voyage they arrived in France
and reached Paris early in March. By this time the Consu-
late had come into power and Napoleon was First Consul.
On April 8th he received them with great courtesy but nego-
tiations were delayed by his going to Italy, and the treaty
was not signed until the end of September. The envoys
were entertained much during this time and were the objects
of much attention from those in power. Davie's secretary,
Mr. Littlejohn, in speaking of him, said, "A man of his im-
posing appearance and dignified deportment could not fail to
attract especial attention and remark wherever he went. I
could not but remark that Bonaparte, in addressing the
American legation at his levees, seemed for a time to forget
that Davie was second in the mission, his attention being
more frequently directed to him." Davie found France agree-
able to him in every way. He was a man of great culture
and versatility, and was an accomplished linguist, so it can
be readily understood that his stay in Paris was a charming
At the close of the negotiations, he returned to North Car-
olina, and upon his arrival was urged to run for Congress. For
business reasons he felt compelled to decline as did he when
in 1801 Jefferson placed him at the head of a commission to
negotiate with the Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, and Creek
Indians. But in 1892, the President appointed him to nego-
tiate with the Tuscaroras and he accepted and a treaty was
concluded with them.
The next year his party again urged him to run for Con-
iWagstaif, State Rights and Political Parties in North Carolina, p. 37.
20 James Sprunt Historical Monograph.
gress, Willis Alston, the sitting- member, having- deserted the
the Federalist faith. Davie consented but refused to canvass
the district, thus making- a doubtful contest a certain one — of
his own defeat. His unswerving- Federalism, his opposition to
Jefferson and his luxurious habits and leaning- toward aris-
tocracy, which was by no means the most ineffective argu-
ment against him, were brought forward with fatal effect and
he was defeated. Disg-usted with politics and his life sad-
dened by the recent loss of his wife, he decided to leave
North Carolina. In November, 1805, he removed to a "Tiv-
oli,"* a large estate he owned on the Catawba River in South
Carolina, where he spent the rest of his life in luxurious
retirement, entertaining- numerous friends and acquaintances
and devoting much time to agriculture, and was the founder
and first president of the South Carolina Agricultural Soci-
In 1813, during- the second war with Great Britain, Presi-
dent Madison appointed him a major general in the United
States army and his nomination was confirmed by the Sen-
ate. But his taste for battle was past and he declined. His
last years passing- peacefully and happily, he died November
29th, 1820. He was buried at Waxhaw Church, Lancaster
county, South Carolina, and above him cut deep in stone is
the following well-deserved tribute:
In this grave are deposited the remains of
WILLIAM R. DAVIE,
The Soldier, Jurist, Statesman, and Patriot.
In the Glorious War for
He fought among- the foremost of the Brave.
As an advocate of the Bar,
He was dilig-ent, sagacious, zealous,
Incorruptibly Honest, of Commanding- Eloquence,
In the Leg-islative Hall
v He had no superior in enlarg-ed vision
And profound plans of Policy.
Williaw. Richardson Davie. 21
Single in his ends, varied in his means, indefatigable
In his exertions,
Representing his Nation in an important Embassy,
He evinced his characteristic devotion to her interests
And manifested a peculiar fitness for Diplomacy.
Polished in manners, firm in action,
Candid without imprudence, wise above deceit,
A true lover of his Country,
Always preferring the People's good to the People's favor,
Though he disdained to fawn for office,
He filled most of the stations to which ambition might aspire,
And declining no Public Trust,
Ennobled whatever he accepted
By true Dignity and Talent
Which he brought into the discharge of its functions.
A Great Man in an age of Great Men,
In life he was admired and beloved by the virtuous and the wise
In death he has silenced calumny and caused envy to mourn.
He was born in Edinburg 1 1756,
And died in South Carolina in 1820.
General Davie was survived by six children, three sons and
three daughters, and through them he has numerous descend-
In 1836 a new county, formed from Rowan, was named for
Prom the narration of the leading facts of his life, it is
evident that he was a great man and that he was so regarded
by his contemporaries; But the question arises, what of his
personality? What sort of man was he in his private life?
These questions are difficult to answer. Such letters of his
as are preserved are utterly impersonal, and yet he seemed to
be united by close ties of friendship with many of his asso-
ciates. It is probable that as a rule he was very reserved even
to his intimates, but it is doubtful if he was as cold in nature
1 A mistake.
22 James Sf runt Historical Monograph.
as he had the reputation of being - . The fire of his oratory
would contradict that. In appearance he was very tall with
fine features and eyes full of fire. His voice was resonant,
yet melodious and capable of every inflection, and his speeches
were distinguished for their fiery eloquence. While he was
an able debater, he won more through oratory than argument.
In education and taste far above the generality of his hearers,
he frequently talked "over their heads." This, however, did
not prevent his speeches from always being enjoyed. To
quote Judge Murphey again: "In the House of Commons he
had no rival, and upon all great questions which came before
that body, his eloquence was irresistible." He was very
proud and would not consent to stoop to g-ain popular favor and
he resented criticism of his tastes and habits as an infringe-
ment of his personal independence. Deeply infected with the
infidelity prevalent at the time, he never was in any sense a
religious man, but on the other hand his code of morals was
very severe and no word was ever spoken against his private
character. On all occasions he bore himself with dignity,
tempered with cordialit}^ to his friends and by "them was
greatly honored and beloved. The following extract from a
letter to Dr. Burke in 1782 throws a little light on his tastes:
"My happiness, though ver} 7 complete on Thursda} 7 last,
would have been more so by the presence of some of my absent
friends. I should have felt a singular satisfaction in seeing
you unlaced from the cares of State,
'Mingling o'er the friendly bowl
The feast of reason and the flow of soul'."
His love of reading had caused him to collect a large library
and his collection of letters and papers was very large. Some
of these were destroyed by his son, but it remained for the
devastating horde of Sherman to scatter the rest along the
banks of the Catawba and add another chapter to their chron-
icle of destruction.
In a final estimate, Davie must rank well with all of his
William Richardson Davie. 23
contemporaries in America. In ability as a soldier, as a
lawyer, and as a statesman, he may be placed very high. Also
in the things he accomplished, he stands far above other
North Carolinians of his time, and to many he would seem to
be the greatest son, though an adopted one, of the State.
Halifax, December 16, 1792.
My Dear Sir
I returned yesterday from Newbern, having- deferred
acknowledging your letters of the 6th and 20th of last month
from that place, as you would hear as early from this.
When I g-ot to Newbern the 30th of November I found your
name standing- on the list of candidates for the appointment
of Senator. x Martin, 2 Leig-h and 3 Blount were also
John Steele, to whom this letter was written, was a citizen of Salisbury,
son of Mrs. Elizabeth Steele, who aided General Greene in a perilous
time by the gift of a bag of silver dollars. He was a Representative in
Congress, Comptroller of the Treasury 1796-1802, State Senator and Com-
missioner for demarking the line between the two Carolinas.
1 Alexander Martin of Guilford, born in New Jersey, removed to Vir-
ginia, thence to Guilford County; member of the General Assembly 1774
and 1775 In 1776, was Colonel of a regiment, was at the battles of
Brandywine and Germantown; was in the General Assembly 1779 to 1782
inclusive. He was Speaker of the Senate; Governor of the State 1782-84
and again 1789-93. He was a good patriotic man and a friend of the
University, notwithstanding he wrote poetry which was doggerel.
Although acquitted by Court Martial the Federalists continued to charge
that he crept into a hollow log at Germantown.
2 John Leigh, member of the House of Commons for years from Edge-
3Thomas Blount, brother of Senator Wm. Blouut and John Gray
Blount; settled in Tarboro; Representative in Congress 1803-09, 1811-12
and 1821-23. He married the daughter of General Jethro Sumner, whose
name, Jacky Sullivan, she changed to Mary Sumner. Blount died at
Washington and is buried in the Congressional Cemetery. He was a
Commissioner to locate the Capital and Blount street is named for him,
announced, 'Lenoir was put up for Chief Magistrate, and
when I arrived, a strang-e coalition had taken place between
the friends of Lenoir and Leigh, with the heterogeneous
assistance of Martin's; the object of all was to diminish your
strength — The first ballot was a mere essay; the two Dis-
tricts of Cape Fear voting intentionally for none of the
candidates; — on the 2nd and third ballots these two Districts
voted generally for you with Halifax District, and a few
friends about Salisbury. Leigh withdrew his name and
Mr. Blount then engrossed his 32 votes, this carried him a
little ahead; he had 31 before you stood 49 and 52 — during
this time nothing could equal the activity and scandalous
behavior of several of Martin's friends (as was reported to
me) not willing to step-forward openly themselves. He
found a proper tool in your friend 2 M. Stokes, you know his
talents and principles. He first secretly, than as it became
necessary, openly charged you with deception and duplicity in
your public character, supporting it by the relation of what
he called a. fact viz. "the writing of two letters to two differ-
ent men, containing different principles and contradictory
assertions, fashioning yourself on the political complection of
your correspondents. There was nobody who could contra-
dict it, and be asserted it with a degree of confidence which
gave it credit and currency. He declared himself the
confidential depository of your political views and principles,
that they were all aristocratical, etc., etc., nay that you was
l William Lenoir. Born in Virginia, 20th of May, 1751 (O. S.), raised
in Edgecombe Co., N. C. Lieutenant in Rutherford's expedition against
the Cherokees; Captain at King's Mountain; Major General of Militia
after the Revolution; President of the State Senate; First President of the
Board of Trustees of the University; last survivor of the Charter Trustees;
died 1839. A county and town are named for him.
2Montford Stokes, of Wilkes Co.; Superior Court Clerk of Rowan
County; Principal Clerk of the Senate; Senator of the United States,
1816-23; State Senator and Commoner; Governor of the State, 1830-31
Indian Agent in Arkansas, died 1842.
26 James Sftrunt Historical Monograph.
the devoted of "Hamilton. Martin's friends
made a most illiberal use of these reports, and every ballot
g-ained more or less ground; so completely had that wretch
poisoned the minds of the Edenton members, that they could
not be gotten even to examine them with any patience; (he
lodg-ed in the same house with them). Between the 4th and
last ballot, the Cape Fear people were shaken by the threats
of Martin's party with respect to the interest of Fayette, a
meeting took place among- the Western Members, in which
this threat had its effect, and Martin prevailed. Your friends
the made their last effort to serve you, that was by keeping
Martin out, he was however elected by a small majority.
2 Caldwell, 3 Dixon and 4 Beard were zealous and active in
your interest, old 3 Matthews I believe dealt doubly by you,
the Salisbury and Morg-an votes for } t ou would not have
exceeded 8 or 9. They left no stone unturned, urg-ed
your want of age, not being 30 — your resignation as they
called it, was blazoned into, a crime and made great use of —
they bestowed upon it the epithets of "vain, pompous,
arrog'ant," etc., etc. Altho' my friend these things are false,
I know they will be unpleasant, yet it is essential that you
should know them. I have therefore detailed them in their
orig-inal form, I did not hear Stokes assert these things for
he carefully avoided me every where, but every person men-
lAlexander Hamilton, an ardent advocate of a strong government and
very unpopular with the Jeffersonian Republicans of North Carolina.
2David Caldwell, Senator from Iredell County, probably an uncle of
Judge David F. Caldwell, whose father's name was Andrew.
3 Joseph Dixon, Senator from Lincoln: Major at King's Mountain,
afterwards Colonel. After the war General of Militia and Representative
4Lewis Beard, often Commoner from the borough of Salisbury and
afterwards Senator from Rowan. The name is probably the same as
oMusentine (or Mussendine) Matthews, eleven times a Commoner from
Iredell; was Speaker of the House; was also a Commissioner to run the
dividing line between North Carolina and Tennessee.
tioned them, and he was publicly taxed with them as
falsehoods by }^our friends.
Edenton becoming- entirely detached from you, in the
manner I have stated, Mr. Blount taking- of course Newbern
and a part of Halifax Districts, while Martin remained so
powerful in the West-country, and Cape Fear ready to sacri-
fice everything- for "Fayette, it became utterly impossible to
effect vour election. Mr. Blount and his friends behaved
toward you with great decency and candor, for this reason
and the purpose I mentioned 16 of your friends voted for him
on the last ballot. I was damnably mortified it is true, on
seeing- that despicable creature prevail over you, and I felt for
the disgrace and degradation of my country, but every thing-
is not possible at all times in politics. I am strongly
inclined to fatalism of late, and have believed for some time
that God almighty made that man on purpose to disgrace his
As to the business of the 2 Klectors it was done among the
members of Assembly and nearly settled when I g-ot down,
The manner of doing- business in the Senate would make men
suspect the Messiah. They will never trust any man there
twice if they can help it.
The last term of our Federal Circuit Court was lost
by the non-attendance of any of the Associate Justices. This
circumstance gave considerable dissatisfaction, and has
brought the Court into some discredit.
We suffer very much here by the quantity of 3 clip'd gold in
i Fayette, or Fayetteville, worked strenuously to secure the location of
the Capital. The Cape Fear valley and the country west of it favored
Fayetteville, but the valleys of the Roanoke, Tar and Neuse won the
2 As North Carolina did not join the Union until November 1789 she
did not participate in the first election for President. For the second
election the General Assembly directed the members of that body from
the counties comprising each judicial district to choose the Presidential
3Davie speaks of foreign coins. Our coinage began in 1792. .
28 James Sprimt Historical Monograph.
circulation, every man who takes it by tale is obliged to be
cheated. I hope some measures will be taken to remedy this
I hope it will not be forgotten that we have a great quan-
tity of paper afloat, 'Haywoods, the late emission etc., etc.
Mr. 2 Taylor had introduced a resolution to instruct you not
to assume our paper money. I have not heard its fate.
Adieu my friend, let hear from you soon.
I am with great respect
My best respects to Yours, etc.
Mr. Macon and Mr. 3 G ■ Wixuam R. DaviK.
To Honorable John Steele, Esq.,
4 Mr. Benehan's, July 22nd, '95
My Dear Sir,
I regret exceedingly the various causes which produced
1 John Haywood was Treasurer of North Carolina, 1787 to 1827. The
State paper, called bills of credit, issued during the Revolutionary war,
was virtually repudiated, as only $1.00 in good money was offered for
$800 in bills After the war new issues were voted from time to time.
The Constitution of the United States forbids such issues by the States.
2John Taylor was United States Senator from Virginia, Caroline
3Mr. G. was Wm. Barry Grove, of Fayetteville, Member of Con-
4Mr. Bennehan (Richard), of Petersburg, was selected by Mr. Wm.
Johnston, a rich merchant of Hillsboro, to take charge of his country
store on Flat River. By strict integrity, intelligence and good manage-
ment, as well as by marriage, he accumulated a large estate, which de-
scended to his son, Thomas D. and daughter Rebecca, who married Judge
Duncan Cameron. As Thomas D. never married, Mrs. Cameron ulti-
mately inherited the whole. Richard Bennehan, and after him, Thomas
D. , lived on the road between Hillsboro and Raleigh and dispensed a
bountiful hospitality. Both were Trustees and benefactors of the Uni-
*your absence from the board. However as the Arabs say
"God would have it so and man must submit", under misfor-
tunes like yours there is no comfort, because nothing- can be
substituted, the only resource for the human mind in such
cases js in a kind of philosophic fortitude, the calm result of
time, reason and reflection.
The Business which occupied the board, exclusively of the
Examination, I suppose 2 Glasgow has shown you, and also
deposited with you the Journal- -some of the objects of your
letter were acted upon as you will perceive by those papers —
the Board of Trustees sat so constantly that the building-
Corn, could do no business.
3 Patterson became extremely clamorous to be paid for his
extra work, the Board being- pressed on this Head took it up;
but his charg-es were found so excessively exorbitant, and
his work so infamously done, that they referred it ag-ain to
the Commissioners, I verily believe he has charg-ed six or
seven prices for the painting-, the rest of the work is on the
4 Mr. Hopkin's bill to my astonishment was almost as bad,
so nothing- was done in that either.
I am very desirous that we should close our accounts before
the meeting- of the next board, at least so far as reg-ards the
iThis letter was written to Treasurer John Haywood, who was one of
the Commissioners to select the site of the University. He was a Trustee
and on the Building Oommittee. He had recently lost his first wife, and
it is interesting to see what consolation a free-thinker could offer.
2Glasgow, who acted as Secretary at the meeting of the Board, was
Secretary of State, having held the office since 1776 by elections. He
was a militia officer in the Revolutionary war, and so popular that a
county was named in his honor. He was found to have been engaged
with others in defrauding the State in the issue of land warrants, was
tried and convicted, then settled in Tennessee. The county's name was
changed to Greene in 1799.
3Patterson (James) was a Chatham man. He built the Old East and
the President's house, now Prof. Gore's.
4Hopkins (Samuel) built Person Hall.
30 James Sprunt Historical Monograph.
principal building - , the President's House and the Steward's
— and hope it will be in jour power to have our journal
brought up and an account stated.
Serious and I believe well-grounded complaints are made
against the conduct of the "Steward; I have written fully to
2 Mr. Kerr and also to 3 Harris on this subject, whether this
will have any effect I know not; these Gentlemen did. not
think proper to mention it when the board was sitting altho'
they had. given assurance to the students that they would
certainly do so.
The students, every thing considered, acquitted themselves
well, but the next examination will be a better test of the
capacity and the attention of the professors. They will soon
suffer very much for want of rooms and an expedient was
adopted to give temporary relief from this mischief; by
building a house for a grammar school with three or four
iThe Steward, John Taylor, (called Back T.), was a Revolutionary sol-
dier, a plain farmer. It was natural that his culinary knowledge was
limited, and not suited to the tastes of Allen and Hyder Ali Davie, whose
father's wealth could command the best cooks in the land.
2David Ker (as he wrote his name) was the Presiding Professor, a
Scotch Irishman, educated at Trinity College, Dublin. He was a Presby-
terian preacher at Fayetteville, when elected — was very capable but
imbibed infidel notions and lost his place, became a Judge in the Missis-
sippi Territory, by appointment of Jefferson.
^Charles Wilson Harris was a native of Cabarrus, graduate with high
honors at Princeton, was first Tutor, then Professor of Mathematics in the
University of North Carolina, then Presiding Professor. He settlod at
Halifax, had promise of an eminent career, but died of consumption at an
4The grammar school was in what was then woods, to the north of the
village, not far from the Foxhall (Vauxhall) Spring. It was abandoned
by the University about 1820. A squatter, Peyton Clements, the last of
the old time hunters, took possession of it and held it with his family
about twenty years, when it went into ruins. The school was once well
patronized. Some of the best men of the State were prepared by it for the
The papers you enclosed to me I lodged with 'Mr. Alves so
that they can be had at any time.
Please let me know whether a receipt is necessary to you
for Preand's money forwarded with your last letter.
Adieu, let me hear from you, and be assured no man has a
more sincere interest in your happiness than
W. R. Davik.
P. S. I set out for Halifax tomorrow.
Halifax, Pebry. 26th, '97
I feel myself greatly indebted to you for your obliging-
attention to my boys, and beg you to accept my thanks.
The. subject of conferring 3 degrees has been attended with
i Alves (Walter) was Treasurer of the University. He was a son of
James Hogg, who had the names of his boys changed to their mother's by
legislative enactment. He married Amelia Johnston, daughter of a Hills-
boro merchant, who owned shares in the Transylvania Company. Hence
Alves removed to Henderson in Kentucky, the chief settlement of the col-
2The chief business transacted by the Board of Ttustees at this meeting
was the adoption of regulations for the government of attorneys and for
collecting the dues of those who had bought confiscated . land on credit.
This proved to be a source of odium to the institution.
The completion of the buildings began and the erection of the Grammar
School were provided for. Apparatus and books were ordered to be pur-
Advertisement in the North Carolina Gazette for a Steward was ordered.
Other business of a routine character was transacted.
4From 1876 the University conferred the degree of Artium Baccalau-
rens (A.B.) for a course including both Latin and Greek; Philosophiae
Baccalaurens (Ph B.) for one including Latin or Greek; and Bachelor of
Science (B.S.) where neither classic .was studied. Recently the faculty
decided to grant A. B. for every course. From 1804 to 1876 this degree
was granted only when both classics were studied. In 1854 the degree of
B.S. was added but not Ph.B. It is remarkable that Davie's Plan of
Education should have been so far ahead of his time.
32 James Sfrunt Historical Monograph.
some difficulty, and difference of opinion, and this difficulty
has been occasioned principally by the variation of our plan
of education from that of other colleges or Universities. A
Bachelor's degree generally imports a knowledge of the
learned languages as well as the sciences, to confer such a
degree upon a person who understood neither Latin or Greek
does not appear to be proper. The ruling or leading prin-
ciple in our plan of education is, that the student may apply
himself to those branches of learning and science alone which
are absolutely necessary to fit him for his destined profession
or occupation in life, that as you observe "one study does not
imply the necessity of any other, unless of one which is
necessary to make it intelligible:" but I am well convinced of
the utility and policy of conferring degrees, and granting
special certificates as soon as a general plan can be adopted;
which I think may be done at the next meeting-; so that those
entitled to a degree or diploma at the November examination
might receive them soon afterwards.
My own mind has not been perfectly made up on this sub-
ject but I will be obliged to you for your opinion upon the
That every student who should stand an approved exami-
nation upon the English language, and such of the Latin or
Greek classics as are directed to be studied, and the sciences,
shall receive a Bachelor's degree in the usual form conferred,
by a diploma in the Latin language, making a knowledge of
one of the dead languages necessary.
That the student who shall pass an approved examination
upon the English language, and the sciences as taught at
the University should receive a diploma in English certify-
ing his knowledge and progress of the arts and sciences.
That those diplomas should be signed by the President and
some members of the Trustees, as well as the certificate of
Masters degree, and distinguished as diplomas; that in all
other cases certificates should be granted by the Principal of
the University, especially stating- the progress of the student
on application made.
I am very anxious that my sons should be taught to dance
well, if you approve of the Master who now offers to teach,
I wish my sons to be entered by the quarter. There are some
French Gentlemen at Newbern who teach dancing- in the
most eleg-ant stile, they are really Gentlemen and unfortu-
ate refugees from J St. Doming-o, and I intended upon going
to Newbern to see if one of them could be induced to come
up and teach the bo} r s, I hope therefore the students will
only engage with the present master by the quarter.
I am respectfully yours
W. R. Davie.
To Joseph Caldwell, Esquire,
University of North Carolina.
Mr. James Hogg, to General Davie.
In my letter by 2 Dr. Hall I acquainted you that all the
classes under Mr. Caldwell and Mr. 3 Holmes had acquitted
themselves well, and I think I made particular mention of
each class: I was not particular I believe about the classes
iThe insurrection in San Domingo against the French was in 1791 and
1792. Many wealthy and cultivated planters fled to the United States.
Afterwards General LeClere was sent to reconquer the island. His army
was nearly ruined by disease. Napoleon obtained possession of the rebel
leader, Touqsaint S. Overture, by fraud it is charged, and imprisoned him
for life in France. General Davie's sons turned out to be elegant men.
2Dr. Hall was probably Thomas H. Hall, M.D., of Tarboro, afterwards
a Representative in Congress.
•*Notes in regard to Hogg, Delvaux and Richards have already been
given, also about Caldwell. Holmes (Samuel A.) was first Tutor and
then Professor of Ancient Languages in this University 1796- '98. He
then became a lawyer and soon afterwards died.
34 James Sfiriint Historical Monograph.
in the preparator} T school. My attendance that morning on a
Board of Trustees and attendance thereafter to the conclud-
ing examination, from neither of which I could properly
absent myself, obliged me to break off my writing abruptly
and Dr. Hall went off immediately when the examination was
over. I have now set down to make up the defect.
Mr. Delvaux's classes on Sallust, Caesar, Cor. Nepos,
Eutropius, and 2 classes on Corderius, seemed to me to be
taught with accuracy: It is true they had been prepared but
each student drew by lot, the chapter or section which was
read. His students also in the French Grammar gave satis-
faction. He has a class in the Latin Grammar which was
Mr. Richard's classes on Telemachus and Gil Bias French
Exercises and Fables and in French Grammar made a satis-
factory examination. A large class on the common rules of
Arithmetic and Practice and a large class in English Gram-
mar in general performed well. — 2 classes of Readers and
Spellers were examined together, on the forenoon of the 5
day, when every body had made ready to start as soon as it
was over. The examination was very superficial, and from
it I could not form any certain judgment of the care of the
master or proficiency of the students. Some pieces of their
writing were also there exhibted.
From several complaints I have heard and some observa-
tions of my own, I have been long apprehensive that Read-
ing, spelling and writing have not been attended to with
such care as to give general satisfaction. At the same time
it will be allowed that some boys have made reasonable pro-
ficiency in their studies. Few men that can do these things
will submit to the drudgery of teaching reading and spelling.
There were 62 or 63 bo} T s in the Preparatory School, about
20 of whom had for some time past, been taught reading and
spelling by Mr. Caldwell and Mr. Holmes, to give time to
Mr. Richards to attend to the new French class.
After having taken under consideration the memorial of
Mr. Caldwell relating- to the misunderstanding between Mr.
Delvaux and Mr. Richards, the Board authorized the Faculty
to find an assistant to them till next meeting - . They have in
view J Robt. Moore who it is thoug-ht, will give the necessary
assistance for the benefit of free education. — Mr. Caldwell
has mentioned to me, a Mr. Murphy from Caswell County, I
think, as properly qualified to fill Mr. Delvaux's place, in
teaching- the preparatory latin classes. I have a great opin-
ion of Delvaux's grammatical accuracy. I am afraid it will
be difficult to meet with his equal in that respect.
The more I know Mr. Caldwell the more I am pleased with
him. I think him a respectable character and well qualified
to fill the Mathematical and Philosophical Chair. — Perhaps
he has not studied as attentively Moral Philosophy and the
Belles-lettres, but I believe him possessed of talents suffi-
cient, to attain to any proficiency in any science that may
be necessary, and I am very sorry that he has ^notified his
determination to leave us. He seems to think that his con-
stitution is too weak, to underg-o the anxiety and fatigue of
the President's place. At the same time he seems disposed
to give us time to lookout and provide a successor.
Mr. 2 Jones told me that he had information from Mr. Col-
lins in Kdenton, that our semina^ was under disrepute there
and Mr. 4 Watters just arrived from the North East, says that
the same opinion prevailed there, and that it was mere neces-
sity, made thetn send their children from that place. It
3Mr. Moore (Robert) of Rowan Conuty, stood high iu his classes.
4"Mr. Jones" is Willie Jones of Halifax, one of the committee to select
the site of the University. He wielded a wide influence — was a member
of the Revolutionary Congresses and General Assembly, Chairman of the
Committee of Safety. Member of the Continental Congress and of the
State Convention go adopt the Constitution of the United States.
•^Collins (Josiah) was a wealthy citizen of Eden ton.
G"Mr. Watters" (Henry) was a lawyer of Hillsboro, one of the attor-
neys of the University. The "North-east" was the Albemarle country.
36 James Sfrunt Historical Monograph.
seems that the} T think meanly of all our teachers. This seems
to confirm Dr. "McCorkle's observation.
Mr. Jones was much pleased with our examination and in a
short but comprehensive speech, hig-hly complimented the
Teachers and Students.
He promised to have a publication in the Halifax paper, to
make known, the great proficiency of the students and the
promising- aspects of our seminary, which I hope has been
done. All the papers in the State should be requested to
Halifax, July 19th, '97.
2 Dear Sir,
I received by the last post your letter of the 29th ulto. it is
necessary for me to mention here, how much and how sin-
cerely I regret the resolution you have taken, I had hoped
that your situation would become as agreeable to you as it
was important to the State. / We are all, however, in pur-
suit of happiness, and it is not for me either to judge for you,
or call upon you to make sacrifices which perhaps nothing-
could compensate; you will observe by the laws it will be
necessary to notify the President.
iDr. McCorckle (Samuel E.) was a Presbyterian minister, who had a
school called Zion-Parnassus six miles west of Salisbury. He was an
active Trustee, delivered the address at the laying of the corner-stone and
prepared the first "Plan of Studies." He was elected te but declined the
office of Presiding Professor.
2 Joseph Caldwell was born in New Jersey, April 21, 1773, educated at
Princeton ; Professor of Mathematics in the University of North Carolina
1796; Presiding Professor for the next year; spoke of resigning but was
induced to remain on Gillaspie's becoming Presiding Professor; resumed
that office in 1799; was made President in 1804; exchanged that office for
the Chair of Mathematics in 1812; again President in 1816; died
January 24, 1835; was author of a text-book of Geometry, "Letters of
Carlton," advocating the building of railroads, and other pamphlets,
especially one in favor of Public Schools.
I am very sorry that a proper spirit of accommodation does
not appear to exist between Mr. 2 Richards and Mr. 2 Delvaux,
it seems to me, that in this I may be mistaken, that two
Tutors are sufficient for the preparatory school without
exposing- the scholars to any disadvantage; if assistance is
necessary the mode proposed by Mr. Hogg is certainly the
most eligible that can be adopted, you can judge with justice
and precision what these Gentlemen can and ought to do,
and I beg - you to give me your opinion. — In the mean time,
as no Board has met, we must leave it to the Faculty to man-
age the matter in the best manner they are able.
I was in great hopes that the Board would have met on the
11th of July so that an ordinance could have passed
respecting the manner of conferring degrees, and I intended
to have transmitted the draft of an ordinance for that pur-
pose. — Should any of the students be prepared to take their
degrees at the annual Examination, proper measures will be
taken to remedy any inconvenience that may arise from the
want of an ordinance to regulate that matter at present, the
Committee and Faculty will be requested to make the proper
entry on a Journal for that purpose and grent the candidate
a certificate accordingly. The Board will take the business
up the moment they meet, and Diplomas will then be issued
to those Gentlemen who are entitled to them, this if you
please you can make known to the Gentlemen of the Senior
I have conversed with several of the Trustees on this sub-
ject, and they generally concur in the principles I once stated
to you on this. subject, which you can also mention if you
deem it proper. *
'^Richards came to America as a sailor, deserted, joined a strolling
players' company. At Warrenton he was employed as an assistant in the
school of Rev. Marcus George. Then came to the University as Tutor.
He was highly regarded. Delvaux seems to have been a good man.
Nothing is known of him. He was probably a refugee from San
Domingo or a French emigre.
38 James Sfirunt Historical Monograph.
I am "sorry that any mistake should have happened respect-
ing- the money paid for the board of the boys; it shall be
immediately rectified upon my coming- up in October, in the
mean time please to complete the payment to the steward or
arrang-e it with him that he may have no complaint.- — You
will remember the money was in different papers; and I
thoug-ht that I had reed, eight pounds from Col. Whitaker of
Raleig-h, and added forty shilling-s myself to make up the
ten pounds; in this however I suppose there must have been
I am extremely anxious to hear of the result of the Exam-
ination. Believe me with great respect
Your mt. obt.
W. R. Davie.
Joseph Caldwell, Esquire,
University of North Carolina.
Halifax Nov. 14th '97.
I received yesterday your letter of the 31st ulto. It is not in
my power to give you all the satisfaction I wish in regard to
"Mr. Georg-e; I expected to have received an answer from him
before this time in writing- but none has come to hand, on my
return we had some desultory conversation respecting- the
business, but he had positively concluded upon nothing-, and
appeared rather unwilliug- to leave Warrenton.
A 2 Mr. Rhea of Virginia, to whom perhaps you was intro-
duced by Mr. Jones in July last, will be at Raleigh with the
iRev. Marcus George, a noted classical teacher in Warrenton. He
declined to accept a chair in the University.
2 What is here said of Mr. Rhea is about all we know of him. He
became professor of Ancient Languages iu the University 1806 1814.
intention of offering- for a professorship. I am told he is a
man about middle age, has been teaching- about six years,
has a family, and is hig-hly spoken of where he resides. — I
have never seen him — -I have not a word from Gillespie, every
effort will be made to procure a proper character, and a man
who could be a considerable addition to your society.
Be so good, if I should not have the pleasure of seeing you
here before I set out for the federal Court, to write to me by
I am very respt, yours,
W. R. Davie.
P. S. I shall leave this place on the 20th for the Federal
Court, if you could so arrang-e your matters as to stay or
spend that time with me here, I would endeavor to render
the event agreeable to you.
Joseph Caldwell, Esquire,
University of North Carolina,
Halifax, Aug. 21st '96.
I received by the last post your letter of the 19th with the
enclosure and will proceed to prepare the answer upon
I should be very sorry should it be really the case that
iGeneral Davie had two sons in the University in 1795, Allen Jones
and Hyder Ali, the latter being evidently in the Preparatory Department.
Neither graduated and after long interruptions we find Hyder Ali a reg-
ular student as late as 1804. Allen was Major in the War of 1812, and
his son, Dr. William R. Davie, a surgeon in the Florida war, 1838 His
grand- daughter, Mary Fraser, was wife of the late Edward McCrady of
Charleston, a sound lawyer and author of a valuable history of South
Carolina. A son of Dr. William R. Davie, of the same name, was a Cap-
tain in the Confederate army. Hyder Ali left one daughter, who mar-
ried a Bedon and left many descendants.
40 James Sprunt Historical Monograph.
General T Person lost his election owing* to his donation to the
University — but I am informed that his opponents succeeded
against him on the charge of nonresidence, this fact was
true, that his residence in Granville was merely nominal.
I am very happy that every thing' goes on well at the Uni-
versity for a thousand reasons, and that certain croakers may
Make my respects to your family and believe me very
W. R. Davie.
2 James Hogg, Esquire,
Hillsborough, North Carolina.
IvANDSFORD, CATAWBA, JUNE 11th 1800.
We were so much engaged, when I had the pleasure of din-
ing with you, that I forgot to give you the necessary
directions how to find my house; the plantation being
covered from any view from the great road by a skirt of
woods. You will pass at the O.N. ford in preference to the
ferry, as it is a good ford, 2 miles nearer, and the ferry is
badly kept. If you cross at the ford get directions at Capt.
iGeneral Person (Thomas) was prominent as a General of Militia in
the Revolution and as a member of State Congresses, was a member of
the Committee that reported the State Constitution. He died at one of
his plantations in Franklin County. His gift of $1040 in silver dollars for
finishing "Person Hall," or the "Old Chapel," could hardly have caused
his defeat. History shows that no odium attached to those who helped
2 James Hogg was a Fayetteville merchant, afterwards moved to Hills-
boro. He was a Commissioner to select the site, and then to locate the
buildings, of the University. The Norwoods and Binghams of Orange
and Huskes of Fayetteville are descended from him.
3General Davie called his plantation "Tivoli."
Heron's to the mill about a mile from the ford, where you
will be directed as to the remainder of the road, which is
easily found, after you pass two forks near the mill; the road
then most deeply marked by the waggons will bring- you to
the Lands-ford. When you come within a mile and T /z of my
house you will probably observe a grave yard, and when you
come nearly opposite my gate you will observe a road goes
out to the left hand, which in 200 3<ards brings you to my
gate; should you pass this fork, you will soon come to a place
too remarkable to pass your notice, the road from Chester
Ct.H. and the road from my house, come into the post road
(which is the one you will travel) exactly at the same place on
different hands. You have then nothing to do but to turn up
the road leading to my House, the post is not 250 yds. from
my gate: You may perhaps observe a good deal of timber
has been cut nearly opposite to the plantation at different
My cotton is greatly improved since I left home, as well as
the corn— rain however is wanting. You observe how
•strangely things are working in Spain. "The world was
made for Caesar' 1 Voltaire, with his 'second causes,
would smile at my superstition but I confess I have no other
way of accounting for more than half the events within the
last 15 years. Adieu my best regards to your family and
believe we with great regards yours etc.
W. R. Davik.
General John Steele
iProfessor H. H. Williams gives the following description of Vol-
taire's doctrine of "second causes."
"The theology of the 18th century is called Deism. And the principle
in this is that God is not now in the affairs of the physical world.
' 'Then if this is so, any event is the result of inevitable law. And this
idea applied to human life is Fatalism. Then we lose the great facts of
Mercy and Personal Care from God.
"Fatalism appears now sporadically as Materialism."
In other words Creation is the first cause. All subsequent changes are
from "second causes" over which we have no control.
42 James Sprunt Historical Monograph.
Catawba, near Lancaster Ct.H.
September 20th 1800.
My Dear Sir,
When I wrote you last I had no certain advices from the
Eastward, nothing- but general hopes, etc., I am now
informed that our Eastern brethren h ave decided, and "Gen-
eral C. Pinckney has consented to become their candidate,
Delaware comes in also, hope was once entertained from hav-
ing- Pennsylvania and Maryland; but on what grounds I know
not, much is expected from South Carolina, but as this must
depend on the combined and steady efforts of the friends of
correct principles, all your aid will be wanting, and I am sure
will not be withheld. Nothing can be done here, nor I sup-
pose Georgia; and I confess that I do not yet see clearly how
this important object can be effected. The} 7 seem however to
be sanguine; and I will write you as I receive informa-
I am afraid the eager vivacity of the federal printers will
induce them to exaggerate and excite so much alarm as to
produce a coalition of the shattered parties of the other side,
would it not be possible to impose some discretion, some pru-
dence upon these people, they are continually sounding the
tocsin of alarm.
Adieu write me, and let me know what information you
have; and your prospects.
W. R. Davie.
iCharles Cotesworth Pinckney, of South Carolina, was Minister to France
and author of the reply to the French Directory, "Millions for defence,
not a cent for tribute." He was very popular but the Republicans car-
ried the election. ^Tohn Adams was the Federalist candidate for the
Presidency and Pinckney for the Vice-Presidency. Adams had 65 votes in
the Federal College and Pinckney 64, while Jefferson and Burr secured 73
each. The trouble following this tie led to a change of the Constitution.
' Feby. 2nd 1801
John Steele Esq.
I flattered myself with the hope of receiving a letter from
you that would have developed some of the mysteries of the
day, you will easily imag-ine how much a man as distant from
information as I am must be astonished at some thing's, the
impossibility of reconciling- them with any fixed principles,
with any connected system of procedure leaves every thing
My last letters from Congress under date of the 23rd state
that the Presidential election is as interesting- and as doubt-
ful as ever, that the Federalists own the destruction of the
constitution as an event certain under the administration of
Mr. Jefferson, and as to the administration of Mr. B.,(Burr)
altho' it may be energ-etic, no man knows what course it may
I have been visited by a great number of the most enlight-
ened friends of g-overnment in this part of the country since my
return, they all express an insuperable repug-nance to the
election of Burr, urging- his want of character, etc., etc.
"In my own opinion it is a measure that will sink the feder-
alists in the opinion of the majority, and in" its operation effect
the destruction of the Federal party, by becoming responsi-
ble for an administration they can neither control nor influence,
and consecrating beyond all doubt Mr. Jefferson in the eyes
of the people.
iNotwithstanding the advice of Davie, the Federalists in the House of
Representatives supported Burr. Eight states, New York, New Jersey,
Pennsylvania, Virginia, North Carolina, Georgia, Kentucky and Tennes-
see voted for Jefferson. Six states, New Hampshire, Massachusetts,
Rhode Island, Connecticut, Delaware and South Carolina for Burr.
Nine were.uecessary to a choice. Vermont and Maryland were divided,
Jefferson was nominated on the 36th ballot. The Federalists from Ver-
moiu withdrew to allow that state to be counted for him. Four Federal-
ists from Maryland and one from Delaware cast blank ballots.
44 James Sfrtmt Historical Monograph.
The present crisis is peculiarly gloomy; under Mr. Jeffer-
son, it is said, every institution must crumble to dust, in the
administration of Mr. Burr, no man knows what to expect, of
course no man has confidence , an alarming- degree of discon-
tent and disgust pervades every description of society, the
public spirit appears to be destroyed by party rage, and the
effects of these domestic evils are increased by party embar-
rassments; in this situation, where the most consummate pru-
dence can only make a choice of evils, it appears to me that
the true policy of the Federalists is to act an open, manly
and decided part, b}^ yielding at once to the public sentiment,
with the best possible grace, and placing the painful respon-
sibility of the future where it ought to be, on the succeeding
adm in istration .
The public mind in this quarter is haunted with apprehen-
sions of dissolution of the Union, etc. pray let me know the
state of things.
Enclosed with this is a small package for Mr. "Murray,
which I would have troubled Mr. 2 Marshall with, but not
knowing how long he would Secy, of State, I have taken the
liberty to trouble you with it, and beg you to forward it by
the first safe conveyance.
Believe me with great respect and esteem your most obd.
3 W. R. Davie.
Halifax Feby. 22d 1801.
The last advices we had respecting the election of a Presi-
^Murray (William Vau), of Maryland, was colleague of Davie in his
mission to France.
2Marshall (John), continued to be Secretary of State until the close of
John Adams' administration.
3The letter was addressed to General Steele while Comptroller at Wash-
ington, D. O. He was continued in the office by Jefferson, but resigned in
1802, giving as a reason that he did not wish to remove his family to
dent were under date of the 13th when it was said 19 "ballot-
ings had taken place without any variation or any prospect of
a decision, the situation of suspense and incertitude has pro-
duced the most disag-reeable effects in this quarter of the
Country; the friends of government are seriously alarmed for
the Union, and the violence of the antifederal party seems to
have no bounds; resentments created and renewed by repeated
conflicts have given a stability to certain opinions, and the
wild frenzy of a demagogue is admired by the mass of the
people as an effort of the sublimest patriotism and it would
be difficult to say to what lengths this malignant influence
would not carry them; I pray you to write to me and let me
know the real state of things, that I may have it in my power
to allay in some measure the inquietitude of our friends.
I" observe the Senate have passed the 2 Judiciary bill, a great
deal will depend on the appointment of these Judges; they
ought to be men oi known weight of character, and men of
active and popular, as well as professional talents; on their
exertion will depend in a great measure the cause of Federa-
lism in the Southern States; several circumstances have, you
know, given a decided bias to the people fn favor of the other
party, and much exertion and address too will be necessary
to recover the ground the Federalists have unquestionably
Do me the favor to appreciate my disappointment in not
hearing from you by the two last posts, and believe me sin-
W. R. Davis.
John Steele, Esquire,
City of Washington.
lAs.to election, see preceding letter.
2The Judiciary Act, creating twenty-three new Judges, with clerks
and other officers, was passed after it was ascertained that the Federalists
were defeated in the Presidential election. This legislation was naturally
regarded as an effort to perpetuate the power of the Federalists. There
46 James S f runt Historical Monograph.
Halifax, Aug-. 3rd 1801
My dear Sir.
I received by the post on Saturday }^our favor of the 26th
ult., and congratulate } t ou upon being again "once more
under your own humble roof, which, b}^ the by, is the most
decent chateau in the neighborhood, ornamented too with no
little taste, enough I am afraid to mark you soon as an Aris-
tocrat: if I had attended the "treaty in Tennessee, I should
unquestionably have had the pleasure of paying my respects
to you on my way; but this commission, which would have
furnished such a feast for a philosophic traveller, I was
obliged to decline.
While I was engaged in the business of my profession
my time and attention were exclusively devoted to that
business, and my own affairs altogether neglected; my prop-
erty it is true increased but it was not only unproductive but
even expensive to me; under, the pressure of professional
business I had scarcely time to perceive this circumstance,
and it was an object to be felt, some unexpected accounts and
charges from my plantations now and then put me in ill
humor, but they were paid and forg-otten — When I was
appointed Governor of the State, I supposed that the usual
course of office of three years would give me time enough to
was also much animosity against certain Federal Judges because of their
overbearing conduct in the prosecutions under the Alien and Sedition
laws. The first Congress under Jefferson repealed the Judiciary Act and
the "midnight judges" lost their places.
iGeneral Davie, in June 1801, was appointed head of a Commission,
the other members being General James Wilkinson and Benjamin Haw-
kins, once United States Senator, then Indian Agent, to negotiate with the
Creeks and other Indians for cessions of land. This appointment was
declined. In 1802 President Jefferson commissioned him to represent the
United States in the negotiation for a treaty between North Carolina and
the Tuscaroras for the disposal of the Indian Lands in Bertie County,
which had been ceded to them for good conduct. In pursuance of a
treaty made in 1802 the Indians then in that county removed to New York
and became a part of the "Six Nations."
bestow order and arrangement on the affairs of mj- estate;
however before any thing- was affected, I was obliged to go
to Europe, our mission was prolonged there far beyond my
expectations, and my directions were not predicted on an
absence of such length; my overseers, as is usual, were con-
tented with having an excuse, and my affairs fell back into
the same state of neglect and confusion that they were in
when I quitted my profession: my time since my return or
rather since the spring- has been entirely devoted to this impor-
tant object, my arrangements reached of course thro' the
year, and then my personal engagements oblige me to be
stationary here till the 15th of October, excepting a journey
to Edenton and Petersburg, and from the 15th of October to
the last of November, I had engaged to be in Chatham and
South Carolina; so that it was impossible to attend any of the
treaties for which I was appointed a Commisssioner — as my
affairs therefore would not admit of any arrangement that
could enable me to be absent until December my acceptance
was at once out of the question. This business being then
decided by circumstances over which I had no control left my
own judgment without any responsibility; there was however
great difference of opinion among my friends with reg-ard to
the acceptance of the appointment; my Federal friends were
generally violently opposed to my acceptance, while those who
are attached to the present administration discovered great
anxiety that I should accept the appointment and attend some
of the treaties at least; it is unnecessary to trouble you with
their reasons, you will not be mistaken in their substance, but
I entreat you to give me your sinecre opinion, you are sensible
of the high esteem I have for your judgment, and the man-
ner in which I appreciate your friendship. In cases of this
kind it is a matter of mere chance, whather a man forms a
correct judgment himself and therefore ought to rest
implicitly on the judgment of his best informed friends.
You will have returned again to the seat of government
before I shall pass thro' Salisbury in October, I wish most
48 James Sfirnnt Historical Monograph.
sincerely you could return this way, we might have an oppor-
tunity of comparing- our ideas respecting the present and
future state of things, little can be done in the narrow range
of a letter in taking views which at once must comprehend so
I am sorry to hear thro' judge 'Macay that your crops were
nearly lost for want of rain, the seasons here have been
remarkably favorable and crops never more promising — no
never — . G. Britain seems to triumph every where, never has
she displayed more vigor, never was she in a condition to
make so honorable and advantageous a peace — The Judge tells
me that you informed him that our affairs are likely to be
settled here. My respects to 2 Mrs. Steele and the family and
believe me very sincerely and respectfully,
W. R. Davik.
Halifax, Dfc. 27th 1801.
I have the pleasure to acknowledge your letter of the 9th
and thank you for the information it contained respecting
the business of the Legislative session. I was not sanguine
as to the passage of the bill repealing the 3 Gothic law of the
iln 1790 the state was divided into two Ridings, two Judges in each.
Spruce Macay of Salisbury was added as the new Judge. Previous to
1790 there were only three Judges.
2Mrs. Steele was Mary Nesfield of Fayetteville. She had three
daughters; Ann, wife of General Jesse A. Pearson, Margaret, who mar-
ried Stephen L. Ferrand, M.D., and was grandmother of Hon. John
Steele Henderson, and thirdly, Eliza, wife of Colonel Robert MacNamare.
3The Gothi^law referred to was that repealing the grant of escheated
lands to the University, and also balances due for confiscated lands. This
was repealed in 1805, so far only as to escheats. The chief hope of the
institution was escheated warrants, to be located in Tennessee, and hence
General Davie's harsh word, Gothic, as expression of robbery. Public
taste seems to have changed to Vandals, as representing the fierce plun-
derers of mediaeval times.
prceeeding session, but I considered the support it received
as a proof of the condition of the public mind and the progress
of reason; a sort of Gothic ignorance and political fanaticism
are the fashionable order of the day; these infectious moral
evils like the fellow fever and the plague have their limits,
some invisible power has always said, "so far shalt thou go
and no farther." — They interrupt for a time the progress of
nature or society, after which they again resume their march,
and become progressional; Every man really attached to the
liberties of his Country, every sincere republican must sin-
cerely lament this sort of suicide consummated by the Legis-
lature, ignorance and despotism, are as certain contempora-
ries and relatives as light and Liberty.
I hope you had the pleasure to find Mrs. Eaton quite well
and that you enjoy all the pleasures of the season, you have
yet no cases to trouble you — enjoy while you may, "to enjoy
is to obey."
Our respects to Mrs. Eaton and believe me very sincerely
W. R. Davie.
*M Maj. John R. Eaton,
Granville, N. C.
Halifax, Jany. 7th 1802.
My Dear Sir,
I am very much obliged to you for your letter of the 22nd
of November and the inclosure since; I am not surprised that
a mind accustomed to look forward should feel a little gloomy
on reviewing the prospect before us, the mind is no doubt
iMajor John R Eaton was son of Colonel Charles R. Eaton, a militia
officer of the Revolution. Major Eaton was a wealthy and hospitable citi-
zen, repeatedly a member of the General Assembly from Granville He
was a breeder of fine horses, one of them, Columbus, at the sale after his
death, bringing $10,000.
50 James Sfirunt Historical Monograph.
invariably affected by the state of things around it, "a snowy
day," an easterly wind, cannot fail to have their effect; with-
out these physical aids our political hemisphere is always
sufficiently charged with chilling and gloomy matter to
excite the most unpleasant sensations.
You know my temperament is not of the melancholy kind,
and you will not suspect me of being hypochondrical, when
I say that we shall never see one clear day; and the highest
graduation of our happiness will be marked by the observa-
tions, that "there are flying clouds." — The last violent strug-
gle between the parties left the public Nerves in a state of
morbid irritation and it will be long before the} 7 will again
resume a firm and healthy tone.
A correspondent of mine who belongs to the corps diplo-
matique writes to me that it is positively asserted by some,
who have good means of knowing and no motives to mislead
that Lousiana has been ceded by Spain to 'France, that this
measure cannot fail to connect with it that train of polic} T ,
and views you mention, for my own part I would have risked
a great deal to secure the Floridas, or the Eastern bank to
the mouth, it was not long ago an easy affair, and the irreg-
ular conduct of Spain furnished the fairest pretence for doing
ourselves justice in the modern style.
The affection of attachment to the 2nd article of the con-
vention by the 2 French Government was nothing but line
iNew Orleans is on the east bank of the Mississippi. Owing to the dif-
ficulties of long hauls by land, especially over mountains, it was necessary
for the Western people to have the navigation of the Mississippi free. As
the transports on the river and its tributaries were not built of sufficient
strength to go to sea, Spain had granted for three years, continued after-
ward without special agreement, the right of deposit at New Orleans of
merchandise in transitu. The news that France hart obtained the rights
of Spain in the Louisiana Territory, coupled with the boundless ambition
of Napoleon, stirred our people very deeply. It made the purchase by the
United States very popular in most quarters.
2The Convention mentioned was that with France in 1800. France, it
appears, wished not to surrender her rights under former treaties, begin-
ruse diplomatique-, all they urged that had the semblance of
argument, resolved itself simply into this, that if they agreed
to our form of ratification fiurement et simplement the} 7 would
absolutely and forever abandon their claim to treaties, while
we would reserve our claim to idemnities. The seeming
force of this argument is derived from the false ground that
the claims and disputes of Nations are settled by judicial
maxims; the truth is they saw the awkward situation into
which the business was cast, and wished to make the most of
its "retrenchment. As the latter part of that article stipu-
lated "that the treaties should cease to operate until the two
nations had agreed to those points deferred," it removed all
objections to the operation of the British treaty as to an
asylum for privateers and prizes, and in fact contained the
consent of France to the contingent operations of those articles
then becoming absolute; it was their part of that article
which was unpleasant to them, and it formed unquestionably
a very natural ground of objection.
Pray let me know something about the proposed financial
reforms — is everything to be reduced to the simple trash!!
Where will this business end. I will be greatly obliged to
you, when you have it in your pow T er, such documents as may
be seen by the sovereign people, and which might enable me
to form some judgment whereabouts we are. — Make my best
respects to your daughter and believe me very sincerely and
W. R. Davie.
N. B. Be assured of my discretion,
nothing you write shall ever be put into the press.
John Steele, Esquire.
niug with that of 1778, which had been the subject of dispute between
the nations for years. The in leninities we claimed were for spoliations
of our commerce.
The British Treaty referred to was Jay's Treaty of 1794.
lRetrenchment seems to mean suppression or curtailment.
52 James Sftrunt Historical Monograph.
I beg- your attention to an alteration proposed by the Post-
master General in carrying - from here the western mail, it is
perhaps an inadvertence perhaps worse, I do not know Mr.
Murray's residence, pray direct the enclosed for me.
Halifax March 13th 1802.
My Dear Sir,
1 am much obliged to you for your favor of the 30th of
Jany. I had the pleasure of writing to you some time ago,
and committing to your patronage two Gentlemen whose
claims upon our Government must be acknowledged by every
impartial man, having no means of serving them myself, I
felt a pleasure in leaving in your hands the agreeable office of
relieving and rewarding suffering- merit.
As to the metallic substances left by my ci-devant Col-
league in you care, I will be obliged to you to give them to
Mr. 'Alston our member of Congress when he is coming home,
he will be kind enough to take charge of them, as I have the
honor to be one of his constituents, and one of the sovereign
The Bill repealing the judiciary law of the last session, I
am informed, has passed, and will no doubt receive the sanc-
tion of the President; as the avowed object of this man is to
effectuate the removal of the Judges, the Constitution is no
longer considered by Congress in any other light, than that
in which Doctor Swift represents the Holy Scriptures, when
he likens them to a. loose pair of trousers, which any man
with a little tugging may draw over his backside: indeed all
Constitutions are useless, if the doctrines of Mr. 2 Brecken-
iPhilip Alston, of Halifax, repeatedly member of the State Senate
and House of Commons; was a Representative in Congress, 1803-1815, and
1825-1831. Davie opposed him in 1803, without success.
2John Breckenridge, member of the Kentucky Legislature, and Sen-
ator of the United States, 1801-1805; Attorney General, 1805-1806. With
Jefierson and Nicholas he draughted the "Kentucky Resolutions" and
was the introducer of them into the legislature.
ridge are to be supported by the ruling- party; and that cele-
brated "instrument vaunted as "the world's best hope" is no
more than an old woman's story. — What course will things
take? How long will the Lilliputian ties of the public debt
etc. etc. hold us together?— Pray let me hear from you and
believe me with great respect, sincerely yours
W. R. Davie.
John Steele, Esquire.
Halifax, Aug. 20th 1802.
My Dear Sir
I have to acknowledge not only the receipt of your letter of
the 21st ulto., but the pleasure it gave me also, the appoint-
ment of Mr. 2 Burnett to the Consulate of Antwerp is a repa-
ration which Administrations seldom make either for their
injustice or mistakes; and I now flatter myself with a hope
that you will be able to offer something for the 2 Quondam
Major — Poor fellow Providence seems determined that he
shall have occasion for all the resources nature has furnished
him with, or that he has acquired by experience.
We have been so long in the habit of contemplating or
expecting great events, deciding the fate of nations; that it
is almost impossible to avoid feeling some ennui amidst the
present calm — a friend said to me the other day "our situa-
iThe public men in the early days of the Union were continually hav-
ing visions of the extreme sickness and even death of the Constitution.
Nathaniel Macon was firmly persuaded of its untimely demise before he
left the Senate. Such gloomy forebodings can be found in letters of many
21 have been unable to discover the facts concerning "Mr. Burnett" or
the "quondam Major." The short description by Davie of the latter suits
many men of his period — and our own.
54 James Sprunt Historical Monograph.
tion would be really insupportable if it was not for J Duane,
2 Callender, and the President."
Our Government from certain constitutional causes will
never do what it ought, at the time it ought to be done; the
complaints we had against Spain were sufficient to have war-
ranted any measures that our Government might have taken to
secure to us the mouth of the Mississippi; and the Floridas
oug"ht now to be purchased at any price.
I have long- observed your reserve in writing - , and supposed
there existed objections as you say beyond the mere drudgery
— I have regretted it, and did not doubt as to the motives
being prudential — I set out for 4 Bethlehem with one of my
daug-hters about the first of October and hope either g"oing-
or returning- to have the pleasure of seeing you at Washington.
The death of Mrs. 5 Davie has devolved upon me the whole
iDuane (William) was editor of the Aurora in Philadelphia, a Repub-
lican paper; a man with a sharp, abusive and able pen. When the militia
was called out to suppress the Fries riots he criticised their conduct so
severely that he was whipped by some officers. He was indicted under
the Sedition Act, but not convicted. He accused the United States Sen-
ate of the attempt to frustrate the popular will of Pennsylvania. For this
he was brought before the bar of the Senate for a "false, defamatory,
scandalous and Malicious publication," and "a high breach of its privi-
leges." He refused to appear. His arrest was ordered, but he secreted
himself and the close of the session ended the case.
2Callender (Thomas) published a pamphlet called the "Prospect Before
Us. " Judge Samuel Chase by harsh means procured his indictment for a
seditious publication. The Judge was so domineering that the prisoner's
counsel abandoned the case. He was convicted and sentenced to nine
months' imprisonment, a fine of $200 and to give security for good behav-
3It is impossible for us at this day to realize the hatred the Federalists
had for President Jefferson, aud their fear of his radicalism.
^Bethlehem, on Lehigh river in Pennsylvania, was settled by the
Moravians in 1741 It has long had a school for females of great reputa-
tion. Lehigh University was located there in 1865.
2General Davie married Sarah Jones, daughter of General Allen Jones,
niece of Willie Jones, and granddaughter of Robin Jones, Attorney-Gen-
eral prior to the Revolution. She is buried at Halifax in the village cem-
care of my children; I am therefore at present confined to
this spot, and my health has been bad ever since my return
from So. Carolina in the spring-.
My best respects to your family, and believe me very sin-
cerely and respectfully
W. R. Davie.
General John Steele, Esquire.
Halifax, May 2, 1803.
BEING informed that it is the wish of the Citizens of this
District, that I would offer as a Candidate at the approaching
Election for a Representative in Congress, I beg the favour
of you to inform your neig-hbors that I am willing- to serve
them in that capacity, if they should think proper to elect
I desire that it may be clearly understood, that I never
have, and that I never will, surrender my "principles to opin-
ions of any man, or description of men, either in or out of
power; and that I wish no man to vote for me, who is not
willing- to leave me free to pursue the good of my Country
according to the best of my judgment, without respect either
to party men or party views.
I am very respectfully,
Your most obedient servant,
W. R. Davie.
etery. She had three daughters, Mary Hayne, who married
Crockett of Texas; Sarah Jonas, wife of William F. DeSaussure, United
States Senator; and Martha Rebecca, who married Dr. C B. Jones of
^Notwithstanding his high standing Jeffersonian Republicanism was
too strong for him. There are traditions that the canvass against him
was conducted on a despicably low plane, principally against his alleged
56 James Sprunt Historical Monograph.
To this a 'postscript was afterwards added
to the charge that I was attempting- a monarchical form of
Halifax June 9th 1805.
I returned here from So. Carolina on the 5th and had the
pleasure to find your letter of the 16th of April and thank
you for your kind concern respecting- my Health. I have
now again been two weeks on the road, and return perfectly
worn down: my constitution canuot bear that degree of suf-
fering-, privation and incessant toil, which when I enjoyed
youth and health only gave me spirits and pleasure. —
Everything must yield to Time, and I have submitted with as
good a grace as possible. My Plan of life is to be completely
changed, and those measures which are to lead me to a
Repose I have long sighed for, and which is becoming every
day more necessary for me are to commence this fall. —
This plan involves some painful sacrifices, but they are
necessary and indispensable. — A separation from friends to
whom my Heart has been tenderly attached for many years is
among the most painful of all these; I anticipate it, I feel it
as a prelude to that last separation to which the laws of our
Nature compel us to submit. About the 1st of November I
propose to set out for South Carolina with a view to reside
permanently on my Estate there; whether I shall pass
through Raleigh or go by the 2 Ridge, is not yet decided. If I
aristocratic habits at his home and elsewhere. It was charged that his
dress and ways were acquired in his recent trip abroad and showed that
he was under ''foreign influence."
i\Ve have not the words of this postscript.
2The road by "the ridge," went through Granville County, then along
the present route of the North Carolina Railroad. It "headed" many of
the streams and was probably a more eligible route than that through
take the former route I shall have the pleasure of seeing- you
I expected to be at the University at Commencement, but I am
oblig-ed to carry my second daughter to 'Salem about the 25th
of July, the time the Superintendent has fixed for her recep-
tion and in my situation, you will easily perceive, two jour-
nies cannot be made. The situation of the University is a
distressing - one, and the more so, as it is not likely to be soon
capable of any Remedy, being- the necessary consequence of
Legislative hostility to the Institution. The friends of
science in other States reg-ard the people of North Carolina
as a sort of Semi-Barbarians, among- whom neither learning-,
virtue nor men of Science possess any Estimation. The con-
duct of the Legislature for several years past has stamped
this character on the State, and it will take a long- course of
time, and contrary conduct and policy to efface the impres-
In South Carolina a Professorship is more eag-erly canvassed
for than a Secretaryship in the Government of the U. S., the
consequence of that liberal spirit which has been displayed
by their Assembly; after a handsome and permanent endow-
ment of the offices of the Institution, they voted $10,000., to
purchase a Library and Philosophical apparatus — What a
contrast!! Poor No. Carolina!
As to procuring a professor of lang-uages, I can only advise
that the Enquiry be kept up, and as much of this as possible
thrown on the President, who indeed is the proper person
to make the choice of inferior officers, as the whole respon-
sibility of the management of the Institution turns person-
ally upon him.
I wrote to you last about the 9th of February, I don't
iThe excellent School for Females at Salem under the charge of the
Moravians was opened in 1802.
The "second daughter" was Sarah Jones, who married Hon. Wm. F.
DeSaussure, and left many descendants through her daughters, Mrs.
Boy kin and Mrs. Burroughs of S. C.
58 James Sftrunt Historical Monograph.
know whether you rec'dthe letter, it was intended to go with
Mr. 'Craven, and missed that conveyance, and was I believe
put into the post-office. Adieu my dear friend, and be assured
you possess the warmest affections of my Heart.
W. R. Davik.
P. S. The above letter contained 2 Genl. Jones rects. for
you. Write me if you got it.
John Haywood, Esq.,
Halifax, Sept. 22nd 1805.
My Dear Sir
I had the pleasure to receive by the last post your letter of
the 10th inst. and those of the 26th of Tune and 1st of July
in the course of conveyance, these two last I should have
answered sooner, but I wished to decide, before I wrote,
whether I should pass through Raleigh on my way to So.
Carolina as you had kindly proposed to meet me somewhere
if I did not. — My arrangements are now made to pass thro'
Raleigh about the 7th or 8th of November when I hope to
have the pleasure of seeing you.
The late unfortunate occurrence at the University is much
to be lamented on many accounts, and most of all for the ill-
advised measure of the Ordinance which gave birth to the
iJohn Graven, of Halifax, was State Comptroller, 1783-1808.
/ 2 Allen Jones and Willie Jones were brothers. Allen was a militia
General in the Revolution. He was Davie's father-in-law. Willie held
high position in the State and Confederation. His public views were
those of Jefferson.
3This ordinance, which forced a majority of the best students to leave
the institution, required the Faculty to appoint a Monitor from each class,
who should take an oath before a judicial officer to report every infraction
conduct adopted by the students. You will remember, no
doubt, that an ordinance of this kind was rejected several
years ago on a full consideration by the Board, on the
ground that the principle was improper. These Monitors
under the ordinance are not a species of Magistrates, but
real spies, and human nature revolts from the principle of
Espionage in every shape: the corruption and depravity of
London, Paris, and other large cities renders its adoption
necessary by the police, but the most degraded wretch in
these sinks of Depravity could not be induced to accept it as
a public office, and always stipulates for the most part pro-
found secrecy with regard to his employment. I do not
believe that the duty of Monitors or Censors has ever been
carried further in any literary Institution, than to note the
absences from prescribed duties such as attendance on recita-
tions prayers Church etc.
With regard to my advice as to this unhappy occurrence
itself, I should have advised that the ordinance should have
been suspended as to its operation till the annual meeting of
the Board, when it will probably be repealed altogether. And
with regard to the students whose conduct in this instance
forms a most dangerous precedent; I think, with proper
deference to the late act of the Trustees, that discrimina-
tions with regard to readmission, should have been adopted
on some principle, such as the degree of guilt, or the age,
or the standing of the student.
I have reflected much and seriously since this event on the
causes of this spirit of insubordination and the means of pre-
venting it. — It has always existed in a considerable degree,
the ordinance may be considered as only an accidental cause,
I think the real causes may be found in the defects of domes-
tic education in the So. States, the weakness of parental
authority, the spirit of the Times, the arrangement as to
of the by-laws and species of misconduct among the students. The Trus-
tees, when this ordinance was resisted, modified it by substituting a
pledge of honor for the oath, but the students refused to accept the change,
6.0 James Sfirnnt Historical Monograph.
vacation, and some errors of the Board which I will notice
Every man of discernment who has lived 40 or 50 years
must have observed and lamented the general decay of paren-
tal authority, and the consequent presumption and loose man-
ners of young- men, Boys of 16 or 17 years, without judg-
ment, without experience or almost any knowledge of any
kind arrogantly affect to judge for themselves, their teachers
and their parents in matters of morality, of Government, of
Education, in fact in every thing. The effect of the other
general cause is visible throughout the whole of their remon-
strance. — Nothing can be more ridiculous than Boys at school
talking of "sacred regard to their rights," "the high and
imposing duty of resistance," and of "denouncing laws",
etc. etc., the general Slang of the times culled from the col-
umns of Newspapers, yet these very words are attended with
the most mischievous consequences. Over all these causes
however the Board of Trustees have no power or influence,
but they must be considered to be counteracted as far as pos-
I have understood and observed ever since the establish-
ment of the University that the disturbances have g-enerally
manifested themselves about this period of the second ses-
sion, and that when a general resistance to authority did not
take place, a spirit of Insubordination always showed itself
more or less at this season. This I attribute to the great
length of time the students have been confined at Colledge;
they become tired and disgusted with study, their minds gen-
erally acquire a sour gloomy and restive temperament, pro-
ducing a general predisposition to any measure that may
break up the session, or interrupt business and distress the
Faculty. Two or three fellows more daring and unprinci-
pled than the rest seize on this Disposition, and artfully turn
it into the channel of a general revolt against all authority:
To Remedy this Evil I would earnestly recommend that an
ordinance should be passed at the next annual meeting estab-
lishing- the vacations exactly on the same footing- as they are
at Princeton whatever they may be, and Mr. Caldwell can
give the necessary information, they are the result, of Exper-
ience and have been found to answer the purpose, if you
approve of this I would advise that President Caldwell should
be requested to prepare so much of the ordinance as may relate
to any alterations in the division of the courses of studies,
The difficulty we have continually experienced in the man-
agement of youth at this Institution has often oblig-ed me to
reflect on the means we have used, and the nature of the
Government of such Institutions . I am now fully con-
vinced the best g-overned Colleg-es are those which have the
most respectable Faculties, and the fewest written 'laws, and
that we have committed a serious error in making- an ordi-
nance for every thing, or in other words legislating- too much.
—It is now my opinion, that after describing- the kind of
punishment to be used in the Establishment, and reserving-
in all cases the punishment of Expulsion to be confirmed by
the Board, all the rest should be left to the discretion of the
Faculty. It may perhaps require some reflection to see the
justice of this remark, and I will only add, that the principles
of the parental Government are the true model for that of
literary Institutions for youth of all kinds from the University
down to the common school. The parental Government has
no written laws, and I would observe, that no mortal man
could g-overn his family if he adopted that mode If he
did, his whole household would become, like these students,
iGeneral Davie's advice to trust little to by-laws, and leave the discip-
line to the Faculty was far ahead of his time. We now practically go still
further. The regulation of the conduct of students is left to the Presi-
dent and Dean, with power to consult an Executive Committee, or the
Faculty when they deem best.
This letter has a pathetic interest as being the last word spoken by Gen-
eral Davie— the legacy of his experience and good- will. His labors were
greatly appreciated and the title, "Father of the University," given by
the Board, was in recognition of them.
62 James Sprunt Historical Monograph.
lawyers and legislators, discussing- his ordinances, chattering
about "their rights", "despotism", "duty of resistance", etc.
etc. They would form themselves into revolutionary commit-
tees, and be always deliberating, remonstrating, and
I have been led to doubt whether our practice of publishing
in the news-papers annually the distinctions made at examin-
ations may not be attended with consequences which if not
the immediate causes, operate at least powerfully with other
remote causes to produce many difficulties we have exper-
ienced. The objects of this measure were to excite emulation
among the students, gratify the parents and attract public
attention to the Institution, but I apprehend that it has also
had the effect of filling the young men with presumption, and
a vain imaginary consequence, which had an ill effect upon
their own conduct afterwards, and gave them a pernicious
influence among their fellow students; and then the mischief
it produces greatly overbalances any good to be expected
from it: and perhaps it would be better to adopt hereafter
the practice of other Colleges who notice in the papers the
commencement honors only: and other reasons of considerable
weight might be given for this measure. That it is danger-
ous to depart from the paths of Experience is a Truth I am
more and more convinced of every day I live.
I was sorry to see a long piece in the : .
(Unable to make out rest of letter)
To John Haywood, Esquire,
Raleigh, No. Carolina.
It will be much time before I can sell the land of Mr.
Jones. I went to see General Jones after receipt of your letter
but he was too sick to discuss it. I will write to you in a
Lands-Ford, near Lancaster Ct. House,
Jany. 22nd 1806.
Since Colonel 'Moore departed from here on Sunday last I
have found another file of the papers relative to the subject
of the boundary, they consist principally of the representa-
tions of the Assembly to Governor Martin relative to the
Extension of the line under the order of June 1771; and altho'
the dissatisfaction shown by these documents on the part of
No. Carolina mig-ht not now vary the legal merits of the case
yet I regret very much that I had not laid my hands upon
them before Col. Moore set out.
I wish you may be fortunate enough to terminate this
affair to the satisfaction of both States, and beg- you to
present my respects to the other Commissioners, and accept
of the asurances of the esteem and reg-ards
of your most ob. &
W, R. Davie
General John Steele,
Charlotte, N. C.
Landsford Nov. 25th, '07.
Mr. Caldwell informs me that you propose going- to Colum-
bia on his return to Salisbury; I should be extremely happy
to see you at my 3 House, and it is as direct a route as you can
lOol. Moore was probably Roger Moore, who was in the House of Com-
mons from New Hanover in 1806. He was a scion of the family descended
from Governor Yeamans, Governor James Moore, Colonel Maurice Moore,
Judge Maurice Moore, and Judge Alfred Moore
2The Commissioners on the part of North Carolina were General Steele,
Montford Stokes and Robert Burton. Stokes became Senator of the
United States and Governor of the State. Burton had been a member of
the Congress of the Confederation. The scientific expert was President
Joseph Caldwell of the University.
iGeneral Davie's country place was called Trivoli.
64 James Sfrunt Historical Monograph.
take. T shall flatter myself with the expectation of seeing
you, the direct way is to cross at the old nation ford.
Make my best respects to your family and believe me with
W. R. Davie.
Salisbury, N. C.
Lands-ford Jany. 4th, 1810.
I have the pleasure to acknowledge your letter of the 26th
Novm., the anxious hope I entertained that some light would
be thrown upon the gloomy circumstances to which it refers
by the communications to Congress or their discussions
induced me to defer answering it. I was too remote from
Head-quarters to possess a sufficient knowledge of the partic-
ular views and opinions of the men who now hold the destiny
of our Country in their Hands, and the whims and prejudices
of politicians so often influence their public conduct and are
so generally the real springs which actuate them that it is
extremely difficult, as you know, to form any judgment of the
course and direction they may give to public affairs, which
are eternally more or less mingled with their private views.
The late discourse of the views of the "British Cabinet and
the foolish conduct of Jackson has again aroused the war
party into activity; whether they will be successfully opposed
by the torpor, into which the national feeling seems to have
sunk, the determination imputed to the President, and the
efforts of the remaining friends of Peace, I know not
War speeches have now in a great m easure lost their
effect, they are like "a tale that has been told"; the
People are smarting under the effects of the embargo and non-
iSee note to letter of Feby' 10, 1812.
intercourse policy, and dread War as still a worse evil, they
must always feel before they will begin to think: and most
of us have had our pecuniary sensibilities considerably
As to the two Great Belligerent Powers, I see no hope of
any radical or material change of policy to be expected from
either of them with regard to the U. States. On an entire
change of the B. Ministry some modification of their orders
might be expected, but their principle will be maintained,
and I think the Emperor will adhere to his "Text" till he
can find a more successful mode of carrying on the War
My hope rests upon the President, I sincerely believe he is
a man of great virtue, we all know he has sense and the
experience of many years in public life, and they now say he
has more promptitude and decision than any man who ever
filled the Presidential Chair; May God grant that this may
be true; Our affairs may yet do well and this pause operate
Enclosed I forward to you the proceedings of our Legis-
lature with regard to the boundary Tell me what you will
Write to me 1 am sorry we are so far from each other
and believe me with great regard and esteem
W. R. Davik.
General John Steele
Salisbury, N. C.
Jany. 10th 1812.
I have the pleasure to acknowledge your letter of the 25th
of November, and beg you to present my thanks to t\\c
bb James Sfrunt Historical Monograph.
President, Faculty and Trustees of the University of North
Carolina for this mark of their polite attention, and to assure
them of the hi g-h sense I entertain of the honor they have
been pleased to confer upon me, with my warmest wishes for
the success of the institution.
I pray you Sir, also to accept my thanks for the polite man-
ner in which you have been pleased to communicate this act
of the Board.
I am very respectfully
Your Most Obt.,
I W. R. Davik.
2 Robt. Williams, Esq.,
Secretary of the Board of Trustees,
University of North Carolina.
Catawba near Lancaster Ct. House, Aug-. 15, '08.
My Dear Sir,
I had the pleasure to receive by the last post }^ours of the
8th and congratulate you on your narrow and providential
escape from such imminent dang-er, I know no situation in
which a man may more easily lose a limb or his life than that
in which you was exposed.
I regret exceedingly the arrang-ement which prevented
your spending a day with me, during- which I had promised
myself the pleasure of comparing our views of the various
iThe letter of Davie is in acknowledgement of the degree of Doctor of
Laws (LL.D. ) granted in 1812. He was the first on whom this degree
was conferred The like degree was conferred on Ashbel Green, D.D. in
J 812, and next honored was in 1825, Nathaniel Macon — only three Doctor-
ates of Laws in the first thirty years of ihe existence of the University.
^General Robert Williams was Secretary and Treasurer of the Univers-
ity from 1809 to 1821. He was brother of Congressman Lewis Williams,
"Father of the House" of Representatives of the United States. He was
Adjutant General of this State.
aspects of the political horizon; never in my opinion was the
situation of the country more critical, or our prospects more
pregnant with danger: 'Negotiation leads every where into
difficulties, war points to incalculable evils, and the Embargo,
as terrapin-hostilities, to the depression of the public mind
and the gradual but certain ruin of our financial resources.
What have we to hope from a feeble and timid administra-
tion? Providence has stamped a kind of awful character on
the events of the present times, which seems to have appalled
the firmest minds, and chained the energies of the nations;
neither the government nor the people of Europe appear to
have had any adequate ideas of the terrible destiny which
awaited them, until their fate was irrevocably fixed: in this
fatality, if there is such a thing, it is eminently conspicuous
in the conduct and destruction of 2 Prussia and 3 Spain: but
without resorting to the mysterious workings of a chastising
Providence to explain the errors and misfortunes of men; may
not the calamities of these kingdoms be fairly attributed to
the imbecility and ignorance of their princes, and the timidi-
ty and corruption of their ministers; observe the devious tem-
porising policy of Prussia since '95, and the abject slavish con-
descension of Spain — . Prussia never thought of assistance
till it was useless, when it resembled the instinctive efforts of
despair, and the government of Spain had submitted, till it
knew not how to resist. — Now compare the policy of the
United States since 1800 with the course pursued by these
iGeneral Davie's comparison of the United States making war on Eng
land and France by shutting up her ports and cutting off intercourse, to a
terrapin, is obvious to one who has witnessed that interesting animal
withdrawing head, feet and tail within its shell.
2By the Peace of Tilsit in 1807 Prussia's territory was reduced from
89, 120 to 46,032 square miles and she was made to pay an indemnity of
$28,000,000. Until payment was made she had to support 150,000 French
3Iu May, 1808, Napoleon forced the King and heir of the Spanish mon-
archy to cede their rights to Joseph, his brother. He sent a great army
into the country.
68 James Sftrunt Historical Monograph.
unfortunate Monarchies, mark their character and analogies
look at our interior arrangements, examine the course of our
negotiations, and the state of our foreign relations, and ob-
serve the presiding spirit of our government, and tell me
frankly if we are not directed in the same perilous track, by
the same means, to the same dreadful destiny. Has not "war
with France been a probable event for some time past, is it
not now inevitable, has it not been the policy of our govern-
ment to lull us to sleep with regard to the designs of this
formidable Power, is it wise to wait with folded arms to see
what good or rather evil time may bring forth, or has not the
crisis arrived which demands decision, and when the worst
part we could take would be that of not taking any? — I have
fallen insensibly into the train of reflection upon which I
wished we should have occupied the. day you promised me.
As to the Presidency Madison will certainly be elected, and
he is the best choice that could be made among the present
Candidates. — Mr. Jefferson will assuredly leave our affairs
involved in the utmost confusion and difficulty: it is therefore
of great importance, that the President should be the person
whose measures would recieve the most general support. No
effort will be made in this State to counteract the Congress-
ional nomination, nor I think in Georgia. As to the V. P.
(Vice President) the 3 Demo'cts are not satisfied with Gov.
Clinton, if they knew how they might decently, or rather
safely shake him off; there will be some intriguing on the
meeting of Congress; but Madison's friends are committed
lln a private letter Jeff srson said, "England seems to have become a
den of pirates and France a den of thieves "
2 When the electoral votes were counted Madison received 122, George
* Clinton 6, and O. C Pinckney 47. George Clinton for Vice President had
113, Rufus King 47, and 15 were scattering.
3By Democrats Davie means Republicans. The original name of the
party was Democratic- Republican. When the Democrats of France went
into the Reign of Terror and became odious, for policy's sake the name
Republican was adopted by Jefferson and other leaders.
and they will risk nothing-. I think x Mr. K in any event
stands no chance; the 2 P , with everything- that is virtuous
and valuable have sunk below the political horizon.
I am happy that you have settled the disputes about the
Boundray, the Convention is not to be published till the Legis-
lature meets, when I will write you how it is received. We
have been extremely dry since I saw you, and crops are greatly
injured, the cotton especially has suffered. Write to me, and
may God take care of you, these evil times, and believe me
W. R. Davie.
General John Steele,
Feby. 10th 1812.
I had the pleasure to receive your letter from Raleig-h, and
beg-in to believe with you that we shall be plunged in war,
the discussions with the 4 British minister, the message of the
i"Mr. K." is probably Rufus King. The "P" is probably Charles
2Pinckney and his brother, Thomas Pinckney, and their cousin,
Charles Pinckney — all "virtuous and valuable."
3Acts were passed and Commissioners appointed to run the dividing
line between North Carolina on one part and South Carolina and Georgia
on the other in 1803, again in 1804, 1806, 1808, 1813, 1814, and as to South
Carolina, settled in 1815. As to Georgia the final settlement was in 1819.
-©avid Montague Erskine, British Minister, more friendly to the Uni-
ted States, perhaps, because his wife was an American, had promised the
President that his country would repeal the "Orders in Council" which
bore so heavily on our commerce, if the United States would suspend as
to England the Non-intercourse act. The offer was accepted and there
was great rejoicing. Erskine's action was disavowed by the British Min-
istry and Charles James Jackson was sent in his stead. The Orders in
Council were renewed and Jackson contradicted the Secretary of State so
rudely and pointedly that Congress requested by resolution the President
to recognize him no longer. He is the minister alluded to in this letter.
70 James Sprunt Historical Monograph.
President and tb e report of the Committee of Foreign rela-
tions, have placed the Government in a situation from which
it cannot retreat, without absolute disgrace; they are exactly
in the condition of Macbeth, there is more personal danger
in going back than marching on 1 mean to their popularity '.
If we can steer clear of an alliance with Prance, upon the
whole, perhaps it will be better, two or three rattling rights,
30 or 40,000 thousand men killed, and a debt of as many mil-
lion will bring us all to our senses You will remember
some years ago giving me your serious opinion that we must
touch the extreme point of public wretchedness before the
people could be set right.
There was really no difference of opinion on the subject you
mention, you extend your views further as to our administra-
tion than I did, because youknow them personally and perfectly,
and I know nothing about them 1 still consider the British
orders a part of their system of 'blockade, no more than the
extension of the same principle, the mode only was suggested
by 2 Bonaparte, whose Genius is a little bolder than that of the
We poor planters are much "bothered" here to know what
to do, we depend entirely on foreign commerce and are now
perfectly at a loss. What are you going to plant this year,
what can we best do Present my best respects to the fam-
iThe blockades of the Napoleonic wars would be considered illegal
now. France and Great Britain both declared the coasts of each other in
a state of blockade, and neutral vessels, bound for their respective ports,
were liable to capture. This action worked peculiar hardships on the
United States, large numbers of whose vessels were seized and condemned
with their cargoes. At the present time a blockade is not lawful unless a
sufficient force is stationed at the blockaded port to capture under ordi-
nary circumstances vessels seeking to enter.
SNapoleon in 1806 by the Berlin Decree prohibited trade with Graet
Britain. The next year by Order in Council, (the Privy Council), Great
Britain prohibited direct trade with any country under the control of
ily and let me hear from you, and believe me with the warm-
est attachment and respects yours, etc.,
W. R. Davie.
We have now a post-offi.ce at this place; and I seldom send to
To General John Steele.
IvANDS-FORD, Nov. 29th '14.
My dear Sir,
I have had the intention of writing- to you for two or three
weeks past on the subject of the communications from our
Commissioners at "Ghent, but the alarming- proceeding-s at
home, the 2 movements in the New England States, and the
monstrous strides towards despotism made by the party in
power have absolutely so stunned and astonished me that I
know not what to say or write. After the best reflections I
could make on the views and measures of our Eastern brethren
I came to the conclusion, that weary of the tyranny of the
Virginia Administrations, seeing- no possibility of chang-e, and
disg-usted with a g-overnment in which they had no practical
share, and of course no influence, they had been wrought up
to the determination to secede from the Union. And 1 now
think that the immense army to be raised, the heavy taxes
proposed, the vast and proflig-ate expenditure of public money,
followed up by the conscriptions will confirm any resolutions
iThe Commissioners of Peace at Ghent were: Henry Clay, of Kentucky,
John Quincy Adams, of Massachusetts, Albert Gallatin, of Pennsylvania,
James A. Bayard, of Delaware, and. Jonathan Russell, of Massachusetts.
2The blockadiug of all our coasts, but New England, by Great Britain,
the mysterious secrecy of the Hartford Convention, the refusal of the
Governors of Massachusetts and Connecticut to allow their militia to go
outside their states, together with the general hostility to the war in New
England, gave the impression that Secession was to be attempted. Then
too the feeling against the Federalists was intensified by the story that
they burned blue lights at night as signals to the British vessels.
72 James Sfrunt Historical Monograph.
of this kind that they may have taken. It really appears to
me that the present confederacy will not last two years more
and that Mr. Madison will finish his career amidst the ruins
of his Country. Perhaps these views of the subject may have
preyed too much upon my mind, and by that process have as-
sumed an aspect more gloomy than it should be, I should be
happy however to have your opinion.
As to the 'Conscription proposed I feel no hesitation in pro-
nouncing it unconstitutional, and that such a power in the
General Government must soon crush the State sovereignties
to atoms, and annihilate the Liberties of the people: and I
am certain, I hazard nothing in saying that had the constitu-
tion contained a plain clause conferring such a power on the
General Government, that it would not have been adopted by
a single state in the Union.
The vassals of Virginia may perhaps quietly submit their
necks to the yoke, but it will certainly be resisted in every
other part of the U. States.
Let me know what you think of these things and believe me
with respect and regard yours
W. R. Davik.
Land-ford Octo. 15th 1812.
I suppose that the melancholy issue of the invasion of upper
Canada, and the prospects of a disastrous war, connected with
the pressure of private difficulties must have commenced a
change of opinion among many of the democratic party in No.
Carolina, the people must feel before they will think or reflect,
or endeavor to trace public calamnities to their real causes,
iThere was no Conscription Act passed, thongh a draft from the militia
was proposed. The forcing of citizens into the army was done by both the
Union and Confederate Congresses during the Civil War and the question
of constitutionality is settled.
but under circumstances like the present, when a change
does commence its progress will be rapid and its effects
decisive: whether the short period between this time and the
Presidential election will be sufficient to enable the friends
of peace and commerce in No. Cara. to avail themselves of its
full effect I know not; much however will depend on exertion,
and the dissemination of information; you have long known
my opinion, that nothing is done while Virginia maintains
her present ascendency in the confederacy, and that our
political liberties and our prosperity depend upon our raising
up'a competent rival to her ambitious pretensions.
The present moment is in many respects highly favorable,
and I sincerely hope you will give your aid to organize the
means of effecting this great object, which in my opinion
would insure us peace, commerce and prosperity The war
however to be lamented was the only cure for our domestic
evils; if they levy money sufficient to carry it on with vigor
to ensure even partial success, the taxes will do the business,
if they permit the war to languish for want of means, disas-
ter and disgrace must be the consequence and an accumulated
debt without any equivalent, the people will be disgusted
and general dissatisfaction will ensue; any way the party in
power must be ruined: but it would shorten the period of our
sufferings if 'Clinton could now be elected, in that case I have
no doubt, Peace would immediately take place, the Union be
preserved, and .the towering pretensions of Virginia be
repressed perhaps forever; pray write me what are your pros-
l During the War of 1812 the Americans lost Detroit and Chicago and
failed in an invasion of Canada by way of Niagara. Davie was not, how-
ever, a true prophet. Madison was reelected by a vote of 131 over 89 for
De Witt Clinton and Eldridge Gerry obtained the Vice- Presidency by 128
over 89. for Jared Ingersoll. If the Republicans made mistakes the Feder-
alists made greater. The people wer,e persuaded that they mourned over
our victories and rejoiced over our defeats, and that they contributed to
those defeats by factious opposition to the Government.
74 James Sprunt Historical Monograph.
pects, and what are the views of the Federalists in No. Caro«
Una, and believe me with great respect
W. R. DaviKc
We have a post-office at this place direct to
Land-fords, Catawba, via Camden.
Lands-ford, Feby. 4th 1814.
My Dear Sir,
I am anxious to hear your opinion of the prospect before us,
and whether you think the 'Administration are seriously
desirous of peace, and have made up their minds to adopt the
basis proposed by the British Government in their late over-
ture: the late addition to the Mission augurs illy I think of
its result; Clay is a clamourous advocate for the continuance
of the war and the conquest of the Canadas. Russell is a
time-serving* wretch, added in my opinion to affect the secret
views of the Cabinet, by dividing the vote of the Commision,
whenever it may be necessary for that purpose; thus it is true
he may neutralize the violence and policy of Clay, if the
Cabinet are really determined upon peace, but a mission
thus constituted will move awkwardly and always with
embarrassment, there will be no affinity of principle or accord-
ance of views, and of course no mutual confidence:
The terrible military and political reverses which Bona-
parte has experienced during the last year, cannot fail to
have a salutary influence upon our Cabinet, and their tone
in negotiating will rise or fall with the prospect of his for-
I have been greatly surprised that no motion has been made
by the minority in Congress to promote an enquiry into the
abuses of expenditure in the army departments, they have cer-
iNotwithstaiidiug Davie's fear.s the Treaty of Peace was sigue 1 Decem-
ber 24th, 18 U
tainly been enormous, and such an enquiry is necessary to
prevent their continuance, and would have the effect of attract-
ing- the attention, and opening- the eyes of the people — I
wish you would write to 'Pearson or some of your friends on
this head This is the moment— — for every beneficial pur-
A peace at this time would save the party from ruin-If Mr.
Madison views it in this light, Peace we shall certainly have,
so infatuated are the people it is astonishing- how little popu-
larity they have lost, by all their 2 mismanag-ement and blund-
Let me hear from you soon, and believe me with great
respect and reg-ard
W. R. Davie.
Address to this place via Camden.
To General John Steele,
We have heard much of some 3 salt-works somewhere in
Rowan County, the accounts are extremely contradictory, and
as it is now a very interesting thing-, I would be much oblig-ed
to you to g-ive me an account of them, their progress and
prospects, we are told they already sell salt at two dollars and
are able to make immense quanities every day.
^ Joseph Pearson was a lawyer at Salisbury; Representative in Congress
1806-1815; fought a duel while a member with J. 0. Jackson; was uncle of
Chief Justice R. M. Pearson.
2That the Republican Party came out of the war, retaining its hold on
the favor of the people, seems strange. It was saved by the naval vic-
tories, by that of New Orleans, and other engagements of a minor nature,
and especially by the glaring blunders of Federalists leaders. Instead of
holding up the hands of the administration they indulged in sharp denun-
ciations and perpetual fault-finding. By many, probabiy the majority of
Republicans, they were belu-ved to bo aiding the enemy.
3Now John S. Henderson, of Salisbury, writes me that he has been un-
able to ascertain anything about these alleged salt works.